I've decided I'm all for H1 visas, with the proviso that the imported worker is paid the maximum salary for the position AND the company bringing in that worker pays the cost of an unemployment benefit for the worker who's job is taken.
I think it only fair that we don't use the desperation of foreign workers to better themselves as an excuse to drain the resources of another country and to take advantage of the worker.
I also think that seeing the company is looking to make money themselves to the detriment to the economy at large that they should share in society's cost which they helped create.
We had a government a while back that introduced training guarantee legislation where a company had to spend $x on training per employee per year or pay a tax to that amount. It was limited to companies with more than 10 employees, and it caused companies to take seriously their role in society which includes helping create the next generation of a given skill.
It helped reduce unemployment and skill shortages and created "training" companies. There were also few work Visas requested. It was good for a few years until a different governement took office and scrapped it
The world seems severely scewed in my opinion where a majority of people are voting in governments that don't work in that majority's interests, maybe they need to have a reckoning on a change of government and if unemployment and a few other measures are up the officials lose pensions or something. This is an extremely simplistic suggestion not taking everything into account but some carrot/stick approach like the working calss experiences seems necessary.
I know other US born engineers with similar enjoyment and dedication for engineering.
Of course I have seen immigrant engineers tackle engineering life with just as much gusto (or way more given they are young and single :-)
But just as with US born engineers, I have seen the opposite side of the spectrum, those engineers (US born or H1B visa or ...) that have personal lives outside of work, that have work/life balance for what ever reason. Who take pleasure and apply themselves to many other activities outside of work. Sometimes I envy them, sometimes I don't. We all take our own path, and given the large amount of data points I've seen over the quarter of a century doing engineering design, I don't see any clear trend in one category or the other. After all, we are all "just human".
Training is a short-term issue, education is a long-term issue. A one-week training class on an EDA tool can jump-start an experienced IC designer who has used other tools but not this particular tool. But that training class won't do much good for someone who has zero experience in IC design, or even worse, zero education in electronics. So I ask again, who among the U.S. engineering population needs re-training and why? Do we need to train mechanical engineers to become electrical engineers? If so, that's an education issue that goes far beyond training. Do we need to train digital engineers to become analog engineers? Do we need to train VHDL experts to become Verilog experts? Again, where does the foreign engineer fit into all this, and what does he/she bring to the table that an experienced U.S. engineer is lacking?
When bringing in contractors it makes sense to find people with very specific skill sets for the task at hand. When hiring employees we are used to companies taking a longer view and looking for broader experience and flexibility. It seems to me that many hiring managers are not doing that right now. I believe that this is a holdover from the view that there are hordes of well-qualified people out there desperately trying to get a job. If that is the case, why not be picky?
Training is also a short- versus long-term view issue. Training somebody requires anticipation of what skills a company will be needing at some point in the future. If you are hiring on a JIT basis it is impractical.
The vast majority of jobs held by H-1Bs are entry level and anybody with an AA degree in CS with some smarts could do them. I know because I did that type of work at the end of my career and our company hired a bunch of H-1Bs. We did "software testing". There is no amount of retraining needed for this. All you need is somebody to show you how the company complies with it's government mandate to validate it's software. Those standards are made up by the companies themselves unless the end user is the military. The idea that existing American programmer's and engineer's skills are out of date is nonsense. The only thing out of date is a salary high enough to pay American living expenses.
Perhaps the "retrained then hired" engineer is an urban myth. But the question remains, why or for exactly which skill sets does he/she need to be retrained? The debate presumes that the unemployed U.S. engineer's skills that were once (until recently) valued by an employer are no longer valued, or that the foreign engineer brings something to the table besides lower cost -- some skills or experience that for unexplained reasons are lacking in his U.S. counterpart.
"Well, there you go again!" - there's Bigfoot, there's the aliens who landed in Roswell, there's the Loch Ness monster and then there's the "retrained then hired" engineer. Look I honestly don't want to destroy all that many "urban myths" but there's part of me that just KNOWS that any substantial quantities of the latter will be just about the LAST of the above list to be found in the wild. It's just like the day the salesman dropped in on the harried customer and showed him samples from the product line, in a desperate effort to make the salesman GO AWAY the businessman blurts out "gee I'd love to buy your #549, too bad it doesn't come in purple!" and he really doesn't WANT to see the same salesman show back up the next day with a purple prototype! That's what MAKES it a myth, I don't think you'll actually ever FIND that "missing skill", you're also leaving out the issue that for those two years of the H1B the transferee is very docile and unquestioning and williing to put in lots of (probably unpaid) overtime because he's afraid (correctly) that any other kind of behavior and he'll be sent home right away. We've heard too in other blogs that between 5 and 10 years of work experience is the "sweet spot" for hiring, over 10 years you would be considered "overqualified" and retraining doesn't help with THAT. The internet is here to stay, cheap labor is mobile and credentials are available, and excessive experience is considered a negative, so the domestic engineer with experience becomes unemployable, and anything else we do we won't succeed in putting the genie back in the bottle. (Oh I keep hoping there's some kind of "discrimination law" we could charge the hiring authority with or some positive incentive that could be offered to turn it back, but until someone in DC actually wants to make this an issue and get some legislation passed, I'm afraid the cards have pretty much been dealt for this hand, and I'm really not too concerned that people will think that much less of me for being a realist.)
I find it curious that the subject of this blog involves retraining experienced U.S. tech workers vs. importing more H1B tech workers. Retrain them for what? If they are experienced, they have skills and knowledge, and most likely learned long ago that education is a lifelong process -- especially in our industry, where we all need to keep current with evolving technologies, tools, processes, etc. or the value of our labor starts to decline. So who are these American engineers & technicians that require substantial retraining, and what is the reason they now have that need?
Fot that matter, yes there are many similarly experienced foreign technicians & engineers who would like to work in the U.S. if they had the opportunity. Do they require retraining too? If so, why? If not, why not? Other commenters have mentioned their belief that a foreign worker coming to the U.S. on a H1B visa would be less expensive. Are they sure about that? The comparison cannot be between an experienced engineer and a fresh college graduate. That is not an apples to apples comparison, regardless of the country of origin of either the experienced engineer or the new graduate.
Sharp skills and a lack of arrogance are useful to both management and labor, even professional labor like engineering. The time period that you mention is instructional, because at that time the shoe was truly on the other foot and the pain was being felt by companies that were desperately trying to hang on to engineers long enough to finish their projects. What goes around comes around, and people can have long memories.