How to save U.S. IT jobs

10 outsourcing experts offer their proposals for restoring America's IT labor force

While popular in the halls of Congress, the additional H-1 B visa fees tacked on to the most recent immigration appropriations bill drew mostly criticism outside of Washington. Some critics say it went too far; others say it didn't go far enough. Most agreed that the move would do little to protect or create U.S. IT jobs.

Meanwhile, the more substantial H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2009, introduced by Senators Richard Durbin and Chuck Grassley, has been in committee since April 2009 and is expected to stay put through the remainder of the year.

Phil Fersht, founder of outsourcing analyst firm Horses for Sources, views Congress's recent efforts to curb offshore outsourcing as "merely political grandstanding from the protectionist lobby that will only encourage further offshoring."

As Americans prepare to celebrate Labor Day, asked some leading minds -- academics and analysts, outsourcing consultants and IT services executives -- what the federal government ought to do to help create IT jobs and maintain U.S. competitiveness in the global technology market. Here are their proposals.

Make the domestic workforce Priority One

"While the U.S. benefits from foreign workers, it's stretching the evidence to argue that H- 1Bs are somehow an unusually productive asset to U.S. owned companies. The domestic workforce should be our first priority; it is our competitive advantage. So if we want to help IT, we should reduce business taxes, cultivate the available domestic workforce first, and use H-1B as the program was designed to be used: as a temporary fix to cyclical shortages, not a long term supply of preferred workers who are tied to their employer."

-- B. Lindsay Lowell, director of policy studies for Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of International Migration

"I propose a two-pronged approach, focused on a long-term solution, not some overnight tax penalty that makes government officials feel good. First, use federal funds to address the supply side of the problem and get more U.S. college students graduating in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) areas. By educating our own workforce we will decrease our reliance on importing new workers.

"Second, given federal government's purchasing power as the largest customer of IT services in the country, they should require their suppliers to meet certain onshore U.S.-citizen hiring requirements. This shouldn't target [just] Indian outsourcing companies. These measures must include the large American IT providers as well. They receive enormous government contracts and execute much of this work outside the U.S. State government IT spending could also increase demand for onshore technology jobs by instituting similar requirements."

-- Monty P. Hamilton, CEO of Rural Sourcing Inc.

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