The Unanswered Challenge: Retraining Rather Than Displacing U.S. Tech Workers

Don Tennant

For as long as I’ve been covering the IT sector and speaking with IT professionals about the challenges they confront, a perennial sore spot has been training. IT professionals rarely seem to be satisfied with the training opportunities made available by their employers, especially when it comes to training in the technical skills they need to keep themselves in demand.

An employee training survey recently conducted by ON24, a provider of platforms for virtual training services, did little to mitigate those concerns. The survey found that although the technology sector was second only to the medical/pharmaceutical sector in the percentage of respondents who rated employee training programs as effective, that percentage for the technology sector was only 30 percent. There’s clearly a large population of IT professionals that’s longing for more effective training.

I discussed the survey last week with Tom Masotto, vice president of product management at ON24, who said the training areas seen as most valuable by the respondents across industries were on-boarding (training new hires); and leadership development. It is in those areas that the services provided by ON24 are in highest demand, Masotto said. He noted that 25 percent to 35 percent of spending for training is in leadership-development areas.

But what about demand for technical skills training? I mentioned to Masotto that a few years ago I spoke with Ron Hovsepian, then CEO of Novell, who told me that he had replaced 25 percent of his work force in the preceding 12 months in order to gain the new skills he needed, because that was so much cheaper than retraining people. I asked Masotto for his thoughts on that approach, and he indicated that retraining employees in a completely new skill set isn’t what the services provided by ON24 are about:

I think the prevailing sentiment is that employee turnover is very expensive, and it’s far more cost-efficient to keep the good employees that you hire. One way to do that, of course, is through training. So I’m curious if [the Novell case] was more a re-shifting of the company, based upon the needs for a different skill set. We’re seeing more training of employees to basically further their career goals, more so than a complete retraining of employees in a completely new skill set. So it’s more evolutionary training than a total shifting of skills.

Service providers like ON24 are doing a good job in helping to increase the consistency, effectiveness, and convenience of training for a global work force, especially in the areas of on-boarding and leadership development. That’s a good thing, because training in those areas is no doubt essential in a well-managed organization.

But the question left unanswered is the one that keeps way too many IT professionals awake at night: Is there a cost-effective way to retrain IT employees (especially older workers) in new technical skill sets so they can keep their jobs rather than be displaced by talent from elsewhere? When a training services provider figures that one out, it will have performed a service that will make those “effective training” numbers soar off the charts.



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Feb 12, 2013 2:09 PM Drunky Drunky  says:
And again, old man, NONE OF THIS MATTERS as the USG has made the H1B a corporate entitlement. Until it becomes LESS cost effective to replace workers with "guests" (as it was in the 80s, pre-H1B influx) your crocodile tears for any grandchildren who are in STEM will go 'unanswered.' Take away the corporate entitlements to slaves. Or GTFO. -Drunken Economist http://mindtaker.blogspot.com/ http://twitter.com/drunk_economist Reply
Feb 13, 2013 7:30 AM Jake_Leone Jake_Leone  says:
The "No Poaching" Emails shed light on the real policies of companies. Clearly companies such as Google, Apple, Intel, and others do not want to compete for workers in the real free market. They want a closed indentured market. Don, one of these Emails from EC to a Rob at pixar (can't tell who EC is, "Ed Catmull"). makes clear the target of these secret agreements is Engineers. In another Email, a Google employee is fired, very coldly by Eric Schmidt. The employee did not know that Google and Apple had secret handshake agreement not to allow employees to move between the companies. Further Eric Schmidt asks the HR manager to stop emailing him on the subject, as he doesn't want a paper trail for which he could be sued (or indicted). So much for Google being a "Meritocracy", it is such an aweful lie. And Eric Schmidt, who is so close to our government (and President), has shown that he is a corrupt mafianesque, ruthless, leader. He is due to be deposed in this case on 2/21/13. This is real federal case. We only know about because judge Koh made the Emails public, and they are damning. We must not allow people to use our gullibility to enslave our people. Reply
Feb 13, 2013 9:58 AM jake_leone jake_leone  says:
The Email exchanges between Google and Apple are horrifying. Eric Schmidt has HR personnel fired, for unknowingly, accepting an application from an Apple engineer. In that same Email, Eric Schmidt asks that further communication be done verbally in order to avoid a paper trail for which he might be sued. In another Email, between Pixar employee and CEO, it is made clear that the secret no-poaching agreements specifically target engineers. The verge site has all the emails recently released from Federal Court. What these guys want are indentured servants, and these horrifying emails prove it. Reply
Feb 18, 2013 3:26 AM Wakjob Wakjob  says:
Americans are done working their arses off creating jobs for other people in other countries. The last time Americans heard "retraining" it was the mid-80s and the manufacturing was going down the tubes. So they told us "retrain" for IT. So we all did. And then we all proceeded to create the best industry and biggest boom in American history. Once we had worked 90 hour weeks and did all that they suddenly decided to give it all away to Indian and China AND bring them here to take jobs WE created. Don do you seriously think Americans are going to fall for this AGAIN? We'll retrain in something else, make that boom, and then that too will be given away for free to some other country. The American people are not the world's job creators. We don't owe anything to anyone else and we're done working hard so others can benefit. Americans are simply going to stop doing skilled work and settle for minimum wage jobs. Hope the world enjoys the economic collapse that ensues. Go beg India and China. Maybe they can create the next great new industry. Reply
Feb 19, 2013 11:35 AM Pro Pro  says:
Don, how can I complain anonymously about a B1 visa violation currently happening in a company I work by a consulting company we engage? Will the complaints ever be taken seriously and followed up? Along with immigration violation I see this as tax evasion (federal/state/local) too and the B1 visa users are paid in cash! Reply
Feb 23, 2013 3:00 AM Dolores Dolores  says: in response to Pro
The Department of Justice is very interested in hearing about violations of our visa laws. If you prefer, brightfuturjobs dot com will assist anyone with something to report. Reply

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