The Increasing Trend of Offshore Outsourcing: Part 2
In the last issue of Certification Magazine, I discussed why all of us involved in developing and maintaining the American IT workforce are becoming increasingly alarmed at the escalating pace at which IT jobs are being outsourced offshore. In this follow-up article, I will discuss some things that you can do to help protect the American IT industry and your own career.
The issues confronting IT professionals seeking job security are not unlike the issues affecting the industry as a whole. We find ourselves in the position of offshore outsourcing for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we have failed to keep pace with the continually increasing demand for basic IT literacy skills. For you as an individual, it is clear that the only way to maintain career security lies in retraining, development and a focus on what is hot in the IT industry. As explained by Bruce Hahn, director of U.S. public policy for CompTIA, the leading global IT trade association, “Offshore outsourcing has happened in many industries. The IT industry and its workers must adapt to survive.”
It is also important to upgrade and expand your skill set to be qualified for the positions most likely to remain at a company’s U.S. headquarters. The most in-demand areas are in project management and security, with an emphasis on emerging and new technologies. Some organizations claim that they are not replacing American workers but supplementing their workforce so a project can be worked on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This in itself opens up opportunities since global projects require exceptionally skilled professionals in the area of project management. Also, companies are not likely to assign security responsibilities to workers in another country. Overall, the common prediction is that the higher systems design and analysis positions will remain in the United States. According to Gartner Inc., “Many enterprises do not offshore critical positions, such as those involving application design, application integration, client-facing process management, enterprise architecture, information management and high-investment competency centers.”
Many of the jobs being sent overseas are those filled by workers at the beginning of their IT careers. Therefore, it is important to move rapidly beyond foundational skills and begin building advanced skills to ensure career security. My best advice is to move into areas of strong demand and constantly look for ways to update your skills. Take advantage of new technologies and new trends because now more than ever before, it will be impossible to simply sit on a technology skill set and believe that it will provide long-term career security.
This off-shoring trend has the potential to have a huge impact not only on our industry but also on the entire U.S. economy. Therefore, I encourage everyone to focus on how to raise the awareness of this issue in the minds of policy-makers at every level of government. According to Hahn, “Our government must recognize that both U.S. companies and workers are at a disadvantage in competing with some foreign governments that subsidize the majority of IT training and education expenses.”
In an effort to raise awareness, CompTIA, along with other American IT companies and associations, has created the Technology Workforce Coalition (www.techcoalition.org). This organization advocates federal- and state-level solutions that will train hundreds of thousands of IT workers to continue the growth of the economy and maintain America’s status as the global high-tech leader. Through the Web site you can find out what you can do to help.
Other organizations that are working to protect the American IT worker include TechsUnite.org, an online community dedicated to exploring issues facing IT workers, and the Information Technology Association of American (www.itaa.org), a trade association that provides global public policy, business networking and national leadership to promote the continued rapid growth of the IT industry.
The issue of IT offshore outsourcing is not easily resolved, nor will it ever completely go away. We have to make certain that this issue is given the level of attention it deserves due to the importance of the technology sector to the overall U.S. economy. At an individual level, the stark reality is that there will be an ever-decreasing number of entry-level positions available. However, through the acquisition of advanced skills, increased job productivity and a focus on innovation, we can retain our comparative IT advantage.
Martin Bean is the chief operating officer for New Horizons Computer Learning Centers Inc., the world’s largest computer training company.