It's obvious that there's a great deal of resentment among many IT professionals who are either unemployed or underemployed and who are watching as growing numbers of people from other countries fill this country's IT job ranks. What's more difficult to see is where this demographic change is heading, and what IT workers need to do to cope with it.
If many of the resentful had their way, non-immigrant visas would be abolished, and anyone here who holds one of those visas would be rounded up and shipped back to wherever they came from. But given that saner minds will prevail and the IT workforce will continue to be a global one, how can U.S. IT workers turn that reality to their advantage?
The answer is right under our noses. It lies in recognizing that if the IT workforce is global, it follows that the employment opportunity is global. When people from other countries see that the employment outlook in their own country is bleak, they begin considering opportunities outside of their home country. Yes, the sacrifice can be a formidable one. The idea of pulling up stakes and moving far away from family and friends can be difficult to consider. But if people from other countries can do it, why can't we? My response is that we can, and we will.
According to an article in the January issue of HR Magazine, Manpower Inc. estimates that in the next 20 years, half a billion people will legally work outside of their home countries. That's a 100 percent increase over the number of people who do so today. David Arkless, president of global corporate and government affairs at Manpower in London, says that increase will come "due to conflict, natural disasters and climate change, and economic opportunism."
Whatever the reasons, the sooner we recognize the reality that that's where things are heading, the better equipped we'll be to position ourselves favorably in the shift. It's time we expand our horizons. For starters we can begin making full use of international job boards like International Job Search, International Jobs and jobsabroad.com.
Of course, there are obstacles. Arkless explained one of them in the HR Magazine article:
"In Europe, we've lost 10 million jobs because of the recession, but we can't fill 3.5 million skilled positions. The school system isn't producing the necessary skilled workers. At the same time, the European Union is erecting barriers to immigration of skilled workers from countries outside the EU."
If that obstacle sounds familiar, it's because it's the same one faced by those who argue that the H-1B visa cap should be raised, as the article points out:
The story is similar in the United States, where numbers of graduates in science, technology, engineering and math have flattened to roughly 225,000, well short of the estimated 400,000 needed by 2015, according to the Business-Higher Education Forum, a coalition of chief executive officers, university presidents and foundation leaders. In addition, U.S. executives have failed to persuade Congress to lift the cap on the annual number of H-1B visas for skilled immigrants.
Now, my own view is that the H-1B cap should not be raised until the ongoing problems with H-1B fraud and abuse are fixed. But what's clear is that the sooner this type of problem is overcome and the barriers to the free flow of skilled workers between countries are lifted, the better off the global IT workforce will be.
In the meantime, the U.S. contingent of that workforce needs to be as open as workers from other countries have long been to looking beyond their own shores for opportunity-for what we like to call "the American Dream." It's worth noting that that term was coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adams in his book, The Epic of America. A reminder of how Adams defined it might be in order:
The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.
That dream needs to be realized everywhere, not just within the borders of one country. Imagining its fulfillment in a place on a different continent could be the first step towards the attainment of one's full potential.