Home-Grown

at 12:35 AM

Every time I hear leaders of high-tech companies in the Bay Area complain about the lack of qualified American workers and the necessity of increasing or even eliminating the H1-B quotas on foreign workers, I think of the time I was working as a substitute computer technology teacher at a public high school near Boston.

This school was seeing a decline in enrollment in computer classes because the students were afraid that these jobs were either going to be outsourced overseas or taken by foreign workers. There were plenty of students who would have been willing to take these classes if they thought there would be jobs for them when they graduated from college.

The sad reality is that corporations would love to have more high-tech workers from overseas because they are willing to work for less than the market rate and are locked into working for the sponsoring company for years in order to keep their work visas. Companies can count on keeping these workers during that time with little regard to providing a satisfying work environment with things such as promotion opportunities or raises.

Now it's understandable that corporations would seek to maximize profits for their shareholders by increasing the number of foreign workers, but governments need to take into account the needs of society as a whole. Does it make sense to fill some of our best-paying jobs with people from other countries who are less-interested in spending their money in this country, or would it be better to encourage our own children to excel in these fields so we can increase the standard of living for our own citizens?

I was happy to hear that Google recently donated $1 million to the Mountain View school district to improve math education for their students, and Cisco was recently the lead sponsor of the primary school Tech Challenge at the San Jose Tech Museum. I'd love to see more companies spending money trying to educate the next generation of locally grown engineers rather than spend it hiring lobbyists to encourage Congress to allow them to import them.

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With a Perspective, I'm Robert Simoni.

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Robert Simoni is a 25-year veteran of the high-tech industry and was a volunteer mentor for local high school students.

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