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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Older High Tech Workers Say, ‘Hire Me!’

President Obama is in Pittsburgh today to meet with his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, a group of business leaders he handpicked from companies like American Express, Comcast and Intel. The council is presenting its ideas to create jobs.

During its last conference in August, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said many high-tech companies want to hire Americans, but they can’t find qualified workers, so the Obama administration is rolling out a plan to create 10,000 more engineers a year.

That same sentiment was echoed by guests we had on our show last week. Venture capitalist Mo Koyfman of Spark Capital says the firms he works with can’t fill their jobs, and he thinks the U.S. should loosen visa restrictions to take in more foreign workers.

Listeners weighed in and many couldn’t disagree more.

Matthew Karlsson wrote:

I work in medical devices in the greater Boston area. We have been looking for Quality Assurance Engineer, Quality Director, Manufacturing Engineer and a few R&D Engineers for some time now.
Here is my solution. Halt federal funding/loan subsidies/etc. for all non-professional or non-vocational degrees. If someone wants to major in a subject they won’t be able to get a degree in, that’s fine, but let them spend their own money to do it.
This will create an incentive towards educating Americans in the kind of fields that can keep us competitive in the world.

newbie_Nerd added:

Some of these companies are not finding the “talent” they need? I don’t really buy that. I think that they want employees to come in a neat package with all of the fixings. I have a computer science background and many companies want all of their job criteria met on the first date so to speak. If these companies would be willing to offer training to people who have the talent but maybe not a specific skill, they might be more able to find who they are looking for.

And Mike Royce of Concord, NH shared his story:

Employers saying they are looking for IT employees “is a joke !!!”.
I have 35 years experience in the computer development / support industry.
I have NOT had a “real job” for over 12 years.

I am not a “derelict”, I am extremely capable and able to get the best out of any computer system in any company. I was the IT Director / Systems Analyst / Programmer for the Concord NH School District from 1979 to 1989 (I would still be there today except for budget cuts).

After leaving the school district, I have been a computer contractor working for large companies (mostly in Boston) like Fidelity Investments, Sun Life of Canada, Bank of Boston (with very little work after the Y2K crisis). I also donate to Channel 11 Auction, one day of consulting time for each day of their Spring Auction.

I have been sending out a monthly update newsletter of my work status to 57 contract placement agencies (with mostly NO RESPONSE). Weekly, I respond to many advertised positions and search for meaningful work assignments (again, with NO RESPONSE).

I have been a school janitor for over 7 years just to have benefits for my wife & I (A huge lose of productivity for just me – never mind the many hundreds of thousands of computer support people just like me – thus very little federal taxes are paid causing even more down grading of our society).


  • Mike Royce, former IT worker, looking for a job in the high tech world
  • Ron Hira, Rochester Institute of Technology associate professor of public policy

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Thevagrantphilosopher

    something Mike Royce said I think needs to be expounded upon. when people not in the industry hear ‘COBOL programmer’ or ‘mainframe’ they assume the speaker is an IT dinosaur. NOT TRUE! I recently spent four years at IBM’s mainframe lab in Poughkeepsie, NY (I was laid off earlier this year) and I can tell you that, in the here-and-now, most of the world runs on IBM mainframes, and to that end, COBOL. Mike is not out of touch by any stretch of the imagination. Someone with his skill set at the age of 30 could get hired no problem. It is a travesty this guy has to push a broom :-(

  • Bewildered

    The misguided hiring practices are not limited to older workers. In my workplace, it has been difficult to find workers with the specific skills needed for the job. Management proposed hiring off-shore workers to solve this shortage but we had already had had 2 student interns that quickly developed the needed skills and became productive. Going this route would have cost about half of the off-shore option. Still, management went with the off-shore option.

  • Lawrence Kelley

    *Great show, Here and Now!: streaming it on Android from Clifton Park, NY)*: Spark’s Kaufman & Brad Smith are not being honest about the “retraining”:  they want to expand H1B simply to put wage pressure on existing American technology workers like myself to increase their profits: I’m a 45 year-old mechanical engineer w/ a degree from a competitive college, husband and father of one, and have been out of work for ~9 months! (I was laid-off with ~4 other engineeers in January). I’m being offered “trial jobs” and 1099 status employment, with no health health care. :(   http://www.linkedin.com/pub/lawrence-kelley-bsme/8/165/3a4

  • Allamerican

    I am an older experienced worker and am now unemployed. No effort was made by the company I worked for to find another place for me within the company even though I had 10 years experience with this company and knew their products well. What I saw was the HIB workers were always concerned about losing their jobs and would do nearly anything to keep that from happening. Their efforts to obtain green cards seemed to be have slowed down. So I believe the issue here is US companies want their workers to remain in this indentured status so they can easily be exploited.

  • Olorcain2

    So they would rather bring foreign workers over here on special visas instead of hiring American workers who might need a little training?  Sounds like more corporate greed.  Foreign workers would obviously be more easily manipulated and paid less.  We have an almost 10% unemployment rate in this country but the solution is to bring in foreign workers.  Are these the same corporations that are receiving those Republican tax breaks so they can create jobs?
    No offense, but if those IT workers could learn all about computer technology in the first place (especially those who got in on the ground floor when everything was new) what makes you think that they could not catch on to any of the new technologies out there with just a small amount of training.  Sorry, but the corporations arguments are just sad.

  • Anonymous

    I am a very well trained, educated (Magna Cum Laude BS CIS), and experienced (25 years) IT worker finding myself competing against low cost onshore and offshore employees.  I’m fortunate that I’ve managed to stay employed.  I have experienced training my visa’d coworker only to find myself looking for next my next project shortly after.  It’s a perpetual struggle to differentiate myself.  Clients love me while my company is trying to figure out how to replace me to increase profits.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickevans033050 Rick Evans

    These desperate IT companies beg for H1B visas because they can’t afford to spend time training their older workers.  Then they use their older “hasbins” to train these H1B superstars.  I guess that makes sense. 

  • Darwinxp

    There is a company like Sylvania which is purchased by Germans and is called Osram-Sylania.  They have been developing new LED lights to replace existing residential and commercial Incoandescent lights.  The technology is not that much of high tech.  I am an engineer with MS degree with a broad background.  I interview 7 engineers of development group, 5 Indians including manager, one German, and one Russian. 

    Everyone of them had few technical question from their particular field of specialty as if the idiots expected me to know what all of them knew.  I consider this only an excuse to keep the job to themselves which sadley may end up moving its manufacturing to India.

  • Coy Lay ocp

       I am a sixty year old technical worker and have been on short contracts and unemployment for the last five years.  I agree that companies are looking to hire cheaper workers.  I have often worked with visa holders as colleagues. These workers are trained in their home countries, often trained very well, and trained at much lower expense. Many are willing to go anywhere in the country at their own expense and do anything in any environment for less pay than any less “motivated” american worker would do.  They are looking to set themselves up for life in their home countries with two or three years work here.  Of course companies will hire these workers because they are competent, they  are cheap, and they are tractable. 
       The problem is that this is destroying my professional life.  I have a son here who lives with his mother and I will not relocate because I need to be close to him.  I am reluctant to lower my rates for many reasons but certainly would if offered a stable, comfortable environment.  
        Often I don’t have the specific technical skills a manager wants and in this economy  there are lots of great people on the market who have specific skills. It is hugely cost effective to hire specific technical expertise rather than pay for training.  
         Personally, I can and will continue training but if it is exclusively at my own expense  it is very expensive and almost not worth while. An Indian colleague invited me to come stay with him and take training in India, in English, at one quarter the cost here. With few exceptions, high hourly rates aren’t worth the cost of maintaining high level technical certifications.  If I were a technical manager I would try to use as few “consultant” hours as I could and would fight for training funds for myself and my staff but I expect I would lose that fight more often that I would win it.  
       I have other assets.  I’ve seen a lot of mistakes made and know how to avoid them.  I read a lot and I really enjoy the technology.  I’m good to have in an office to keep it calm in the face of emergencies and other stressful moments.  I will support the authority of the technical manager and know to work hard to make him look good to his management.  I can communicate and I know how important documentation is and reporting are. I know what ROI is and how to address those requirements.   
       Don’t expect the market to resolve my problems or others like me.  It is a company’s job to externalize cost everywhere possible.  It is the government’s job to keep it’s citizens from being exploited and human capital from being depleted.  I’ll do my part but I need the government to do it’s part.  Help me train.  Regulate markets so that the value I and my fellows bring to an organization are recognized as much as the hyper fashionable quarterly earnings statement.  

  • BHA in Vermont

    The question of  ‘older tech workers’ not being up to snuff on skills.  Baloney. I have been in IT for 30+ years. I currently use NONE of the languages I learned in college, none of the  languages I learned and used in the 90′s and I continue to learn what I need to know to get the job done whenever necessary.

    Compare 30+ years of  design/development/testing experience with the ‘fresh face’ out of college. Consider the problem solving skills the ‘older’ worker has as compared to the ‘younger’ worker.
    I know a number of programmers and engineers who were ‘down sized’ as the economy sank. These people didn’t lose their skills nor their ability to learn but they aren’t being called by the companies that claim they need H1B visas to fill their openings.
    Tech jobs are not ‘age related’, it isn’t the same as “how many more years can I climb on roofs or bend over all day and pick vegetables”.

  • trurl9

    I’m an aged 49-54 IT worker who has been a programmer, database developer, network engineer, and application specialist. It was extremely difficult to find a new job — in the late 1990s. I was told I had too many skills or not enough of the specific skills sought. I told interviewers I was also a technical writer who learned new skills rapidly but that never helped. Employers seemed to hire less experienced candidates with paper certifications whom they would pay less.

  • Ckon

    I am a college computer and electrical engineering major. I have many graduated friends who have problems getting jobs too. I think it is not only agism against the older but the younger too. It is all business greed. They just don’t want to pay us more.

  • Datakon64

    hey i am only 47 and am feeling the pinch hard in the IT sector…in the 90′s and very early 2ooo’s i consistently made 40-75k yearly had no problem getting work…now the only jobs out there are paying 30k or LESS! and wanting multi-tasking persons…you cant compete.. master degrees are doing the networking trouble-shooting that i have done for pennies of thier worth…why hire me no masters and older

    • Guest

      I’m over 50, and I’ve yet to take a job under 80K (as a dev), and I live in the midwest. 

  • joycooke

    I’m 45 and got an IT job for $65,000 after not working for 12 years while raising my kids.  When I got there, I seemed over educated to them and kind of  made the young workers look bad.  They called me the den mom and I got a lot of visits to my cubicle for advice.  The only difference between me and them is that I am educated and they are trained.  I’d never used unix before but I learned with a unix for dummies book before my first day on the job.  I also learned as much as I could as fast as I could and was able to move into more and more interesting work.  The United States as a whole has undervalued education and has replaced it with training.

    • joycooke

      P.s.  I have a masters from another country in Economics and worked as a programmer and analyst for only 7 years before stopping to raise children. 

  • Mark

    I think that there are a couple of key concepts that people miss. If you are in Boston, New York, or the San Francisco areas, the may very well be a shortage of people in those markets. That does not mean that there are not in other areas.

    Next I believe there is a cutting edge of technology. A lot of new companies are in that area, this means that they need people that have that area. You have to invest in yourself to learn those. Take a class.

    Lastly I believe that H-1 visas or offshoring are just the easy way to reshape the cost structure. This is not about education, skills, etc. I am under the belief as well that it is easier to reduce ones workforce with offshore employees as well.

  • AWP

    Hello.  I am an experienced IT professional with an MS in Computer Systems, 20+ years IT experience, and an additional 10 years experience as an independent business owner.  I gave up looking for IT opportnities that matched my background several years ago.  There appears to be little opportunity in the market for older technology workers no matter how impressive their credentials may be.  I may have to reserve a big screen TV box to live in for my retirement.  I hope that the Republicans don’t tear down our Social Security system before I get a chance to get back some of what I have paid into it.  Thank you.  Walter

  • Zilbert999

    I agree that the IT industry is strongly ageist.  I’m in my early 50s with decades of experience in system programming and have been unemployed for 16 months.  Job interviews with my potential colleagues go well, and I demonstrate that I can do the work.  But, I never hear anything back from the HR department.

    To have a number of CEOs stand before Congress and claim that there are no USA employees who can do the job is perjury.  What they mean is there aren’t enough tech serfs who will work for peanuts to suit their bottom lines.

    Am I bitter?  Why no, why do you ask?   8-)

  • Anonymous

    Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s all so true! What do we do now? Do we get mad as hell enough to Occupy Silicon Valley types of places? Let’s do something!
    We’re consultants. When we got a contract to do some work related to USB’s, we tried to catch up on our own about USB technology, as we usually do with new technologies without too many problems, but the USB information wasn’t out there. We found out people were trained in house by companies overseas. It was like a conspiracy.

  • Clarkjackie90

    I think we need to start getting the CEO’s for U.S. companies from overseas.   That would be a lot more money for the share holders.

    • M Brewer

      I have said this same thing for the last 7 years.  

  • Twangling_Jack

    Audacious and typical that the very same, self anointed  “Job Creators” who disparage “Big Government” and who are ready to eviscerate NEA and FDA come with an open hand looking for cheap, subsidized H1-B labor. 

  • Kap_99

    Age discrimination is illegal but little is done by government to enforce the law proactively while the hearsay evidence of blatant and widespread discrimination is legion. 

    It would not be hard to apply the techniques that were used to combat racial and gender discrimination, such as sending out resumes in response to job openings with equally viable resumes, but with different ages implied.

    This would likely expose many of the high-tech “star” companies as discriminators with real facts and put some pressure to mitigate age discrimination.  The media could also use this technique to do some reporting.  I think that the country would be shocked by the results.

  • Mtoldman33

    After 34 years experience in the IT industry, I was downsized in 2001. In the course of my career, I had learned 4 different programming languages on 7 different platforms, 4 different communications structures, and 5 different data structures. In the last year of employment I had achieved Java Certification. In response to the downsizing action my corporations share price doubled for a period of four months then collapsed to a level 50% lower than the price at the beginning. The CEO who instituted the action was fired with a golden parachute that allowed him to purchase an extremely large bloc of land in Maine. My replacement lives in one of two Asian countries who both have nuclear weapons and hate each other. What are businesses in the US going to do if/when the balloon goes up?

  • Russell

    I applaud your 67-year old guest with a 35-year background in IT for his motivation to learn the modern IT skills needed, but he seems to lack an understanding from the employers’ perspective.  He needs to apply his sharp mind by learning the modern programming languages and technologies used today, and not expect an employer to hire him based solely on his background and ability to learn “on the job”.  Employers want employees who are trained NOW and ready to be productive DAY ONE, not that will need further training to bring them up to speed (I speak as an employer who is hiring now).  So while I applaud and respect his vigor, especially at that age, he needs to go back to school taking relevant courses and/or demonstrate his ability to APPLY that knowledge (for example, help a non-profit with IT) BEFORE applying for today’s IT openings, especially given he has not been working in the IT field for 7 years. 

    You’ll notice the term “demonstrated ability to…” is often used in today’s job ads, which means you know how to do this now and you can prove it, not that you conceptually could learn it and prove yourself down the road. 

    As I read through the other comments posted here, I’m disheartened to see so much “victim mentality” as I call it… the same that we see with the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Workers from other countries understand we have the best opportunities here in America and that’s why they’re working so hard to educate themselves to get jobs here… they don’t have an entitlement mentality, which is why you don’t see them marching with the rest of the protesters.  I agree this is class warfare, but it’s not the rich vs. the poor, it’s the eager vs. the entitled.  

    Finally, if you can’t find a job, start a business!  Prove your value to the market.  No one will validate and reward your value better than the market itself.  

    Here’s what I have observed: America loves the benefits of capitalism on the way up, but rushes to the false-protection of socialism on the way down.  We can’t have it both ways.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_THRTOHC6TQN7UOHVBNF47ZZMHQ once I built a railroad

      If you’re a victim, it is not inappropriate to have a victim mentality.

      Unfortunately, STEM workers are too likely to do the opposite, to think it’s them, when really they are being screwed over by others.  It has taken us ten years and more to understand the big picture, which is the US deindustrializing itself to make a short-term profit, even if means long-term destruction.  Now, that is something STEM workers CAN understand, it is good systems analysis and engineering.  And it is just what politicians are bad at, seriously bad at.

    • Guest

      Exactly! I’m over 50 and that is exactly how I keep in demand. And when I say “in demand,” I mean it, I’ve got more work and offers for work that I know what to do with. The skills I have today are nothing like the skills I had ten years ago. And I imagine 10 years from now I’ll be able to say the same thing. Perl CGI is ancient, ancient history…

    • Anonymous

      It’s not being a victim to admit the truth.  I’m working like crazy to deal and to come up with alternatives.  I’m not a victim but I do have some bitter truths to share and I think younger folks need to hear them.  Victim mentality isn’t good but grief and anger are appropriate for what I’ve seen. I accuse you of blaming the victim!

      I agree that anyone who can should work at starting a business but not to prove their worth, to make a living.  Unfortunately not all IT workers are suited to running small enterprises any more than everyone is suited to be an IT worker.  Different people have different strengths and I’m tired of having the market cited as justification for turning people loose to flounder and die because they “can’t compete”  (See “Social Darwinism” )

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

    This is a multifaceted issue, but ultimately it seems that a lot of it can still be traced to “free trade” policy that often ends up being a virtual one way street. That is, disproportionately benefiting tacitly protectionist nations, and the multinational corporations that appear to care more about the quick buck than American innovation and the health of domestic markets. I suspect this is part of what is driving “Occupy Wall Street”. It’s not necessarily anti-Wall St. per sé, but it’s against the various forms of favoritism that big, wealthy corporations are garnering from government (comprised of politicians who love the checks from those making a million plus a year), while doing little to tangibly re-invest in America.

  • Trwolklin

    American corporations have been saying they cannot find educated or skilled workers for years. As one of the guests on the show today pointed out, this is really a euphemism for what they really want which is to hire less expensive labor. 

    I worked in high tech for over 25 years. My position was outsourced overseas, along with those of the entire engineering organization in which I worked. Everyone in the organization was tasked with training the person or persons who would replace them. The company was OK with the expense of our training our replacements. However, corporations are no longer willing to retrain their current employees for new positions. In truth, many of the employees would be able to transition to new roles with little or no additional training.

    Outsourcing jobs overseas is a very short-sighted, short-term solution which not only impacts the workers but the economy and the companies themselves.

  • SW Manager

    I’ve been running software development organizations and hiring software developers for 15-20 years.

    The biggest problem is that too many hiring managers are lazy. A good tech person can learn new technologies quickly. It’s much easier to specify job requirements as N years of language X or M years of operating system Y so HR can do the screening for you, however. In practice, my best hires have been people with a consistent track record of learning and applying new things quickly. 

    I’m not clear what the government can do about this, though. Cutting down on H1B’s doesn’t limit a manager’s ability to outsource work, and outsourcing is even cheaper than hiring an H1B. In fact, I’ve had H1B’s working for me, mostly during the tech booms, and I’ve never paid less to one of them than to my full time employees. All H1B’s do is make it easier on lazy managers, as it provides more candidates with their narrow set of required skills checked off, and it saves them the effort of setting up an outsourcing program. 

    I don’t know what to say to laid off workers besides keep learning and keep programming. I can’t tell you how many people I interview who can’t even answer basic programming questions, or who can explain basic technical concepts to me.

    • Anonymous

      I agree that there isn’t much the government can do about it  – excepting possibly putting the economy back on the  rails (metaphor for rail road, not the technology ;-) .  These days I’m thinking that beyond a current certification in the required skills older tech workers can wait until the pool of available tallent drains.  We’ll be the last hired.  Get a “survival” job.  Start an enterprise in something else.  There is assistance out there for starting a small business and grant money too.   

  • Anonymous

    I have twenty years of IT and software development experience and am seeing the age problem.  Another is I was never able to find the time to finish college (I always ended up working in salary jobs or jobs that just required that I work lots of hours whether I was paid for the time or not leaving no time for school).  I’d like to  go back to school and get a CS or EE or some other engineering degree, but I would be at least 50 when I finished school and I am highly skeptical I would be able to find a job in field at that age (and the bad economy has wiped out most of my life savings and retirement so I would have to assume lots of student loan debt along with having an underwater mortgage).  I’ve seen lots of people like me end up in retailing or service jobs even with an engineering degree because they are now considered too old.

    I guess I’ll focus on developing smart phone apps and other business ideas instead of trying a return to college or getting a job…

    • Guest

      I’m over 50 and never finished my CS degree. For me, it would be a waste of money. I’ve never had a job that required a degree or certification, and when we hire, that’s the last thing we care about. I’m talking about development (web, mobile) specifically, not engineering. Teach yourself, take classes (even free ones – UC Berekely, Stanford, etc have lots of CS course online for free. Check out iTunes U). Join an open source project and/or release your own open source projects on Github. Volunteer for a non-profit (that’s how I was able to do my first iPhone app). Keep learning, keep doing. We’ve been looking for a programer or two for months and just impossible to find and most of my recruiter friends tell me the same thing. And as someone who as interviewed and reviewed resumes, I can say the pickings are pretty dismal. The field is wide open…take advantage of it.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, I’m familiar with your suggestions (nothing new to me) and have been into Open source since the beginning of the movement (but thanks for the suggestions anyways).  I don’t think a degree would pay off for me either so I’m not seriously considering it.  However many employers do use that to weed out applications (reduce the huge piles to an easier to handle pile).  Too many years of experience can also be a reason to exclude.

        Sure there are exceptions as you have apparently experienced (and that’s great).  A lot depends on the specific area of expertise needed, the employer/company and the location of the work as to how one will be viewed, treated or even considered.

        So is there a web link to investigate these possible openings that need to be filled????

  • Clayton Cramer

    I have been writing software (in multiple assembler languages, C, C#, C++, Java, Perl, SQL, and half a dozen other languages, all now obsolete) for embedded systems (telecom, datacom) and various user interfaces for 35 years.  I am still pretty young (I started as a developer when I was 16), but I have discovered that the private sector is not interested in people over 40.  The excuses that I hear are astonishing: “You don’t already know PHP.”  I’ve written server-side CGI scripts in Perl and ksh; I’m writing Java classes that run on the server side as part of a struts-based GUI. 

    I have led successful software development teams from a blank sheet of paper to completion; I have hired an entire technical publications department and led them to success in deliverables for our DSL access multiplexer.  I have six books published, assisted lawyers in ground breaking legal challenges, and the U.S. Supreme Court has cited my work twice (as well as numerous decisions of lower courts).  I have worked in technical marketing roles as well, and been highly effective at it.  I have an MA in History, and not surprisingly, I am extremely effective at both oral and written communications.  At one company, a document that I produced as an introduction for our new developers was called by many of those who read it the finest technical document in the data communications industry.

    I guess the notion that it might take me a couple of weeks to be proficient in PHP and several months to become expert–well, that’s just too long!  It’s not like my experience is worth anything.  I now work for a state government, making less than I did, adjusted for inflation, than I did in 1980.  But employers can’t seem to find engineers here!  Color me skeptical.

    • Guest

      I’m an older worker, I have more work and more offers for work than I know what to do with. As an employee, my company is definitely having a hard time finding IT works of any age. We’ll gladly take someone with similar skills and a desire to learn what we do. Clayton, I would say if you’re looking for a web development job, your web skills are way out of date. I haven’t done Perl CGI scripts for 10 years. We did a lot of Perl development at one time (mod_perl, no CGI), now we’re primarily using Ruby on Rails, though we also use PHP and Python. I’m over 50, my skill set today is much different that it was 10 years ago. A lot of the older stuff I don’t even put on my resume. Right now my primary skills are Ruby, Ruby on Rails (enterprise development), Python (Django, buy mainly sys admin scripting), PHP (CakePHP, WordPress), and Objective-C/iOS development. The only Java I do now is Android. I have no lack of work with these skills and I get paid well. I’m over 50. No company I’ve ever worked for has ever cared about “age,” or even “specific” skills. If we find someone who is a PHP developer and they want to learn RoR, then we’ll hire them. We don’t train former COBOL, Pascal, C++, or other people with other unrelated skills without them demonstrating effort on their own part. If we don’t projects on Github or other contributions to open source projects, or some other demonstration of a person keeping up to date, we’re not interested. As far as I’m concerned, it’s never been easier to get an IT job, regardless of age. I’m not saying this to be mean, but if you can’t find a job, then update your skills.

  • Don

    One reason for blatant, in-your-face agism in IT is cultural. Very young, unseasoned people are made into managers in technology today, and a cardinal workplace principle is that you can’t embarrass or show up your manager.

    Another cultural leaning-reason is simply a widespread belief that youth is “better” where technology is concerned.

    A 45 or 54 year old software developer learning Android or Ruby on Rails development in order to remain competitive is probably engaging in a futile exercise. The technical mastery point is used as a reason for no hire but it’s simply the current excuse to justify agism.

    Lastly, our culture has developed an immense contempt for age, wisdom and experience. All three are widely cast as synonyms for plodding, stupid, rigid, and unimaginative.

    Older workers in technology today are in employment terms exactly where blacks or women were in the 1950s or earlier, while companies tout their progressive “non discrimination” and “affirmative action” policies. One thing that happens to everyone – aging – is a key reason for no-hire, and it’s perceived as an irrelevant technicality not to be spoken of or addressed.

    • Guest

      As a 52-year old developer who switched to Ruby on Rails and iOS development (and learning Android), I have to completely disagree. My move has been anything but futile. It’s revitalized my career, made me in demand, and I make more money than ever. Right now I would hire a developer who is experienced in modern web development but not RoR in a heartbeat (and give them all the help they needed to get up to speed with RoR and our business), age regardless. However, what I can’t do is train a COBOL programmer who has taken no interest in upgrading his or her skills. I won’t say age discrimination doesn’t happen, but I think agism is a myth in IT.

      • http://www.cetgllc.com Doug

        Where are you located? I ask this because I’m southern NJ, near Philly. One of the things I’ve done over the years is to stay on the cutting edge of things. I’ve picked up .NET  and JAVA and even a little of PHP, among other things. I learn very quickly, but since finding employment is just about futile, I’ve set up my own technology company. I’m currently developing an application that will be a website, and I also envision it being a mobile app.

        If you’ve got opportunities in this neck of the woods (or if telecommuting is an option) and would like to hire me as a consultant/contractor I’ll be glad to listen to the opportunities you have available.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_THRTOHC6TQN7UOHVBNF47ZZMHQ once I built a railroad

    I’ve managed to stay employed as a contractor in the crazy IT field in spite of my advanced age, but there is no shortage of smart Americans, just a shortage of those willing to take the poor salaries and poor treatment.

    Capitalism says raise the salaries if you want to attract more people.  Yet, in all STEM jobs, real salaries have fallen 50% since 1991 when H-1B began.  That explains the shortage, and finding 10,000 suckers per year to go into such a deprecated field won’t work, those suckers won’t be able to become competent engineers or scientists, or if they do they will quit.

  • Ames123

    Robin thanks for having this topic. I am not in high tech but Ihave long heard stories about this. Another facet is H1B’s who get into positions of hiring and then hire more H1B’s, preferably from their own country.

    I have seen a little of this in biotech, where I have worked, though I don’t think it is as big a problem as it is in high tech. I have been in contract positions in small companies and seen H1B’s hired when I couldn’t get a non-contract job there, so it has also happened to me.

    I hope this discussion will continue in a public forum.

  • Guest

    I could us the commission. If you’e got .NET skills (C#, ASP.NET 3.5/4), Ruby on Rails, PHP (CakePHP, Zend, Magento, WordPress), Python (Django), Java (Spring, Struts, Android), or iOS (Objective-C), I have more calls for work than I know what to do with.

  • Rich Blodgett

    My how quickly we forget. The headline in the February 25, 1992 Detroit Free Press read “GM cuts, Michigan Bleeds.” The story about foreign competition for U.S. jobs is over 20 years old. The nearly universal public attitude about this issue has been that it isn’t a problem unless the job being outsourced is yours. It started with blue colar union jobs in the auto industry. Then other non-union production workers lost their jobs when factories moved to other countries. Then some white colar jobs like engineering were moved out of the U.S. In each case the first company to move jobs out of the U.S. used the excuse that they needed a competitive edge. Then, in order to stay competitive with their rivals, other companies in the same industry felt compelled to seek locations where the wages they paid were a fraction of the wages paid here in the U.S. The tech industry is now trying to justify bringing in cheap labor from foreign countries by saying that there aren’t enough workers here in the U.S. who have the knowledge to do the work they have available. That may be partly true, but in all honesty the tech industry would like to pay lower wages in order to increase profits. That is also the case in the agriculture industry, the construction industry, the hotel/motel industry, professional sports, etc. The fact is that people who come to this country, whether legally or illegally, will work for less than the U.S. workers currently doing those jobs. I’m sorry that the employees in the tech industry are losing their jobs, but the problem they are facing is hardly new.

  • http://twitter.com/mlabudaphotos Mitch Labuda

    It’s not just older IT workers, I am a technician by trade and training, 55 and can’t find work. Heck, employers ask on interviews, about relationships I had with my school mates in high school, and when I draw a blank, thanks for coming, we’ll  be reviewing more people and will be in touch. Older workers scare the younger workers, because we have real world experience.

  • JBlocks

    We need to ABOLISH the H1B and L1 visas, NOW
    When are these corporate SHILLS going to get it and stop their lies
    They want CHEAP labor and do NOT want to hire AMERICANS in their own country

  • Anonymous

    They brought in H1B workers to presumably fix the Year 2000 problem that never existed.
    Then they (corporations) told their creatures, the politicians, to get more of them.  That’s been going on for the last 12 years. The pols and their business bosses are the 1%  the other 99% are sick of. 

  • EngiNERD

    AND     here’s the mantra:
    “The goal is NOT to Find and American worker!”

  • DConroy

    Death-By-Foreign-National is not laissez-faire.

    Death-By-Foreign-National is not free-market.

    MNCs’ [/media/and academia] are not [supposed to be] in charge of U.S. immigration.

    Visas such as H-1b, should be immediately suspended. MILLIONS of our better paying jobs would be instantly RETURNED, to Americans, in America.

    HOW can anyone speak of returning jobs to Americans, while they ignore, or worse, lobby for, the CONTINUED replacement of MILLIONS of Americans, in American offices and worksites, with foreign nationals?

    Start Article:

    MUMBAI: US diplomat Peter Haas, recently appointed consul-general in Mumbai, stressed the importance of people-to-people contact in Indo-US ties.

    US-India people-to-people connections are more powerful than any government initiative, said Haas.

    “While 8 lakh Americans travel to India each year, the US issues half a million non-immigration visas to Indians yearly,” he said adding that Indian citizens formed the largest group of people to be issued H1B and L visas by the US over the last year.

    End Article.

    H-1b, L-1s, OPT, J-1, B-1, lotteries, green-cards, and on and on, and on, and on, it is no longer enough to stand as a nation and compete with the world-at-large, but no, the world at large will be brought to you, so that you may compete with them in your own offices and worksites…

    Start Article:

    The J-1 student work-travel program was created in 1961 to offer work opportunities and cultural enrichment for foreign students, and in the process, create goodwill ambassadors for the United States.
    But the kids aren’t working in professional settings that complement their studies.

    They’re toiling in warehouses for huge companies such as Hershey’s, which have laid off hundreds of workers, and resorts, from Disney World to Morey’s Pier in Wildwood, and for much lower wages than Americans earned doing the same tasks.

    It’s a great deal for U.S. companies, because they don’t have to pay payroll taxes, Social Security or health insurance for J-1s.

    One Spring Lake staffing company even has a nifty calculator to help businesses compare the costs of hiring J-1 vs. American workers.

    End Article.

    We should also revoke some or all green-cards, RETURNING a MASSIVE number of  jobs, for Americans, in American.

    And then there is the issue of sending our jobs offshore, often implemented by those brought to our country on visa, or those having become a green-card holder, who then coordinate the shipping of entire departments, knowledge-bases, and ultimately,  entire industries, out of our country.

    And what of, low to medium wage jobs? We can look towards our wide-open borders, and consider the traitors that advocate a nation without enforcement of its own borders, its laws, and disinterest in its own sovereign best-interest, survival.

    And yes, it is Americans who have facilitated this betrayal of Americans, by corporations, supported by a sold-out government and press.

  • Don

    I’m still trying to figure out the job search tactics used by the older
    guy who: trains up in Ruby on Rails, IOS, Android, or other – who
    participates visibly in open source projects and attempts his own
    products – and who successfully lands lucrative employment in the same

    Every single time I’ve done this type of thing in the past (and I have
    trained up on my own time successfully in terms of eventually landing
    new work) the skepticism curve on the part of the client has been
    extremely steep. Generally the client won’t accept any unpaid work as
    evidence of actual ability. Even if the client manager would, HR
    departments and recruiters will squarely stand in the way of such a
    candidate.  In fact, one a-hole of a past client would not accept my
    picking up some .Net work on his project because to him I was only a
    Delphi (Pascal) monkey. I have not been able to get past this brick wall
    even with clients who knew my work through direct experience.

    It has gotten so hard to do this periodic “flush and repudiate
    everything you know and train up like a 20 year old” routine in my own
    30+ year career that I have abandoned software development.

    It’s a
    broken field where you essentially have to pretend you’re a college
    student in order
    to find new work, in several dimensions: time commitment to self
    learning; open source contributions; and “enthusiasm”.  Software
    development has become intensely political, so you tend to have to
    repudiate anything you did
    that was over 5 years old, because very often managers and lead
    developers will not “like” you if you worked in a competing tech
    specialty. Example: open source shops who hate Microsoft development and
    see mastery of MS tools as a moral failing, is one axis of this type of
    discrimination. So in many work environments, you can’t have a “past”
    or a breadth of alternate skills, because the stuff you know on the side
    will antagonize someone
    else on the team.

    Also, area and personal network has a tremendous amount to do with
    finding work. As far as area goes – in an area like Cincinnati or
    Indianapolis you’ve going to see two types of tech employers: “suit”
    based internal IT departments in banks and insurance companies, and
    idiotic, unstable startups run by BS artists that want to hire cheap and not pay
    regularly. As far as network goes, I accept that it’s quite possible to
    enter or retool in any field if your network is strong enough. Mine
    apparently isn’t.

    Someone I know said in response to this thread: I think the divisive attitudes demonstrated by our own fellows every
    time we discuss this topic just demonstrates how competitive the field
    is.  Like overcrowded rats, we’re fighting tooth and nail to get above
    the other guy.

    The computer programming industry is all about marginalizing someone
    because of their waistline, grey hairs, or lack of a very particular

  • Sam Brown

    This becomes a  sentimental issue for a lot of people.I am sure my comments wont be welcome here as I am a person on h1 but I do feel bad with all this and let me point out a few observations…  I may b wrong but here they are..
    1. Although there is a 10% unemployment overall..there is only a 3% unemployment in IT..Experts say this points to a situation where IT companies are not getting proper people to fill those jobs..
    2. Most of the unemployed people are the people who are not versed with the latest technologies.IT as such is a field where a person can become obsolete in no time. Not that its their fault or they cant be trained but it is how this whole sector is. The only way to do this is investing on latest techs.If the employer doesn’t then you yourself have to shell out the money. That’s the only way to survive.
    3. Training people in lower cost destination proves to be a lot cheaper for companies.Thus people from these countries are already trained and can fit the requirements almost immediately.
    4. As product development /creation of new products moves to lower cost countries (india ,china) compared to what it was 10 years back when mostly only maintenance/back office projects used to be shipped off ,newer technologies are being built there,people are being trained there ..thus proving most of the people in US with vast experience obsolete. 

    Solution : Get trained in the latest tech.Easier said than done but thats the only & best way ahead

    P.S: No I wasn’t a low cost option ..I was hired with a 6 fig salary.

    • Kap_99

      Sam, I cannot take issue with anything that you say.  However, this is exactly why visas should be limited, that is, to raise the costs a bit of hiring foreign workers or make companies pay more for the visas and invest the rest in training of citizens.  To be competitive in any way, a country has to invest, whether in roads or in people.  If the reality of a high-tech career for many people — study like a dog until you get your masters, work like a dog until you are 40– or then out on the street (unless you studied like a dog while you were working like a dog),  we wouldn’t have many students choose high-tech as career.

      If investment were regarded as equivalent to a current expense, we wouldn’t have bridges or airports. If we (government, industry) do not invest in people, we won’t have a knowledge industry anymore.  We must find the incentives to do that.

    • Kap_99

       P.S.   I don’t think that years of experience and wisdom suddenly become obsolete because a new technology is needed to express them.  There is still a lot of value there that should be used.

  • Kajshdkjas

    Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro are planning to hire more than 119,000 employees combined this year, and not just computer programmers and software engineers. The companies are recruiting in areas such as mobility, data analytics, cloud computing, product management and business analysis.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been talking about this aging IT worker issue, and my personal predicament, with several friends of mine. Some are older  than my sixty years and others somewhat younger. Most are not, and have not worked directly in IT. These guys are lawyers, engineers, and various kinds of technical consultants.  A few have started new careers after they retired from long term positions. Most of the others are thinking about it or working on it. The consensus seems to be that IT is not unique in it’s aversion to employing seniors and that age severely erodes one’s market appeal in many fields. I’ve known for a long time that salesmen tend to get tossed out in their early 50′s, if not before.  What I’m hearing seems to mean that this age limit is not unique to sales but applies to IT and many other occupations. If there is an age  limit for most of us in professional type careers, then my taking the time, energy, and expense to study up on the latest technologies offers little reason to expect I will much improve my appeal to hiring managers. It seems a shame to turn away and leave behind all those years of work experience but maybe it’s time for me to find a new trade or practice or enterprise in which to make my living and find joy. Somebody told me the Small Business Administration has grant money for business development. Maybe I’ll go find out what they think is a good idea. I can’t afford to quit working and I’m tired of hanging around anyway.  

  • Subrata1978

    Hi All,

    Let bring the facts on IT Professionals. I have seen USA people are not strong in IT skills. They join in project as IT Consultant but later on they can’t deliver as they are poor in skill as well they don’t have urge to learn IT  things in details. In my US experience, I have seen USA folks are more capable doing managing people / project. No doubt, they are more skilled on that. 

    What I would say that people from USA should start thinking adopting skills on IT technical so that their companies will not outsource from India in mass scale.

    As Indians are more towards Technical things and less strong in Management hence US based companies bring them on L1/H1. This is not only cost factor to get Indians in USA as IT Consultant but also Indians are very strong in Technical.

    Don’t get me wrong but this is what I have seen working in USA for last 5 years.

  • Sdfsdfsfsdfsdfsdf

    End the H1b program, do not expand it!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/6EWDTDGGPM2NUB23WZXTLKO6DI Lorili

    Young Americans don’t want to go into IT or engineering  because they’re not stupid.  They saw what happened to their parents in these fields, hard work, long hours  and having to keep skills current on your own time and money all for average pay, only to be under constant threat of being laid off only to get laid off in your fifties and unable to get rehired.  Competing with Indians on visas and millions of asians willing to work for a few dollars/hour.

  • http://www.usa.gov Danorano

    The problem with the hi-tech industry is that technology is only relevant for a short time before it is superseded by the next technology.  Getting a job in the new “hot” technology is a good bit of luck.  If you happened to have been on a project that chose the new technology for development then great, however, if you have been working on legacy projects, and by legacy this means two years old, you will not have the chance to pick up the new technology.  The technology is relatively easy to learn, it just takes time, and the window of their usefulness is short. The people hiring also have short deployment schedules so they want to hire people that already have ninja status on a particular skill.  It’s a matter of timing to have your skills line up with what is needed on projects this quarter because next quarter you can rest assured that the technology requirements will be something different and require a different skill. Mix this madness in with the fact that being a good software developer takes a certain amount of a non engineering talent, and yes, it could certainly seem like there is a shortage of good software development talent. But it sounds a good deal as if companies are whining a little.

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