Who’s Afraid of Outsourcing?

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Although a great deal of the sound and fury around offshore outsourcing has died down as IT hiring has picked back up, it’s still a subject of concern for many in the industry. Back in June, I wrote about how IT professionals could compete in a globalized labor market. I recently received a question about that column from a reader asking about the kinds of job roles that are sent abroad the most. The short answer is network and system administrators, programmers, and help desk and support staff. It’s not as simple as that, though.


First of all, not all of the people in these fields should lose sleep at night worrying about whether their job will catch the next flight out to Mumbai. In fact, it’s fair to say that few of them should. The number of jobs outsourced is relatively small in comparison to the overall number of IT positions currently held in the United States. That’s probably no consolation to anyone who has lost a job to offshoring, but if the positive forecast for IT employment growth in the next decade is anywhere near its projection, the industry will pay back those lost jobs with interest. Another factor to consider is the shrinking workforce: Given the predicted deficit of millions of skilled workers that may come as a result of impending baby boomer retirements, IT professionals in the United States, the IT managers of tomorrow, might someday actually be glad that there are capable techies in India, China and elsewhere to make up for such a shortfall.


So far, most of the jobs outsourced overseas have been lower-level positions, which involve day-to-day tasks that are repetitious and require little critical thinking—in other words, things someone can give an employee simple and terse instructions for. Workers with a good deal of experience and skill, formal education and certification, or both, are far less likely to lose their jobs. And if they do, they’ll be scooped up by another employer in almost no time. Additionally, positions that are tied closely to business objectives and require frequent contact with management are essentially secure. Vocations that require holistic, creative thinking, such as the emerging IT architect roles, aren’t going anywhere and will continue to fuel domestic IT job creation even as lower-level positions are sent to the other side of the world.


On the employer side of things, there’s both bad and good news. The bad news is that, according to research firm Ventoro’s 2005 report on offshoring, approximately 95 percent of Fortune 1000 companies have an outsourcing strategy in place. However, the good news is that out of the 5,000-plus North American and European executives who participated in the study, more than 80 percent have no offshoring plan in effect, and more than 65 percent have no intention to develop one in the near future. The company leaders who said “Nay” to outsourcing cited security and quality as key concerns. (By the way, security and quality are two key factors in foreign firms’ decisions to “insource” jobs to the United States, and I have yet to hear of any Japanese factory workers who complained that Nissan builds vehicles here.)


Brian Summerfield is Web editor for Certification Magazine. Send him your favorite study tips and tech tricks at brians@certmag.com.


Gaming May Be Hazardous to Your Health


If all work and no play can make a person dull, does all play and no work do the opposite? Apparently not. A 28-year-old man in South Korea reportedly quit his job to spend more time playing computer games and set up shop in a cybercafé in the city of Taegu. He proceeded to engage in a gaming marathon, playing for hours on end and stopping only to occasionally use the restroom and take power naps on a provisional bed. After he spent about 50 hours playing online battle simulation games, he died of heart failure.


This might not be cause for the Surgeon General to put any warnings on “Everquest” boxes, but take it from us at CertMag: Your computer has an off button. For your own well-being, use it once in a while.

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