I know that a lot of people believe that this is simply a matter of US companies wanting H1B engineers because they can pay them less. Personally I think that is oversimplifying a complex issue a bit. But if that really is the reason, it amounts to reverse offshoring. In fact, it's worse.
@Steve989- very interesting take. Sounds like another example of US companies focused on short term quarterly earnings rather than taking the long view. And really, it's not the fault of the companies themselves but the system. One earnings miss costs investors dearly and companies bend over backward to avoid that. I like how you mention that this focus soley on experienced staff will eventually come back to bite them. What I would be interested in is whether young US engineers are going to other countries to look for work in light of this trend.
@alex: it is quite a hassle for a company to jump through legal hoops to sponsor a visa... However, it is harder for H-1B holders to leave the job, which makes them more stable employee base.
I had a coworker who was on H-1B. The company was taking care of all the legal hoops to get him a green card, which was quite expensive. If he left the company volontarily, he would have had to pay back all the legal expenses, which were in the US$10Ks. He was eventually let go in a downsizing, but was actually happy about it because he could then go to a different job without having to reimburse the company.
This aspect of H-1B creates a large number of indentured servants, who are stuck in their jobs doing whatever tasks are assigned to them. Poor-quality companies love it, because they don't have to worry about keeping work interesting or paying a fair wage for the work.
One would have hoped that indentured servitude would have died out with the [American] Revolution.
From what I read, there are plenty of high-quality, experienced engineers out there but too many companies would rather have cheaper ones. There are also too many universities graduating too many students, leaving many stuck with horrific debts and no job.
Outside of a few elite programs, engineering schools cover only the most basic topic. Some of the problems include the university's focus on research and incompetent professors with tenure. This results in graduates having little practical knowledge after graduation. This requires that hiring manager invest many years into training the new grad that might or might not be capable of advanced engineering work. For good reason they choose the less risky alternative and hire an immigrant with an advanced degree and years of experience for not much more. Limiting H1-B visas won't help as it will just increase the use of offshore development centers and completely destroy the engineering industry in the US.
An even more fundamental problem is that public school education is so poor that HS graduates can barely read and write. This clearly impacts their ability to understand complex engineering and scientific texts. Also many students lack passion for engineering and simply select the program because liberal arts graduates fare much worse. In my childhood I spent many years designing and building electronic circuits, including fully-functional computers. Today kids have very little spare time to pursue interests like electronics, and their passion for independent learning is quashed in public schools.
Not only are these problems not being addressed, they are becoming much worse. Massive government spending on education programs crowd out private sector solutions. Parents cannot spend time with their kid to help them develop their interests due to the fact they both need to work long hours to make ends meet.
One solution is to homeschool, or for working parents to pool their resources and hire retired engineers and scientists to tutor their kids.
It used to be that companies had a staff of engineers with levels of experience ranging from new hires to the principal level. As engineers advanced within the company, new hires would be brought in for re-staffing. This system worked well, especially for engineers just starting out. A new engineer typically had a mentor, and management was patient and thoughtful in regards to their development. It also helped ensure the company remained successful over the long term. That's all changed with the poor economy and added pressure from global competition. Companies now focus on the short term; whether it be for survival or to satisfy investors. With the "everything has to be done tomrrow" mode of operation, companies no longer have the luxury of developing talent. As a result, companies are staffing with experienced engineers, only. So it's the new grads that are suffering now, but eventually as engineering staffs age, the companies themselves will feel the consequences as there will be a scarce amount of experienced engineers available to fill openings.
Carolyn - after reading your article I immediately clicked on the link to see the summary and was surprised at the quote "In computer and information science and in engineering, U.S. colleges graduate 50 percent more students than are hired into those fields each year; of the computer science graduates not entering the IT workforce, 32 percent say it is because IT jobs are unavailable, and 53 percent say they found better job opportunities outside of IT occupations." One wonders where, exactly, are those better jobs?? I can't think of any entry-level job that pays better than engineering. OTOH, I have advised every college student in our family to at least consider engineering -- even if they don't think they want to be an engineer, as it is a great background for almost any other career.
You might be right about the pressure, but in my experience, in R&D field hiring managers are more concerned about qualification than about the salary. They would much rather hire an equally qualified local to save themselves the pain of going through the visa process. Maybe in services/IT the picture is different.
I think you mean prevailing wage and plenty of articles have show that companies have a variety of dodges they use to pay H-1Bs less than the prevailing wage, In addition, their mere presence creates a downward pressure on wages throughout the industry.