The Great Tech Worker Divide

by Moira Herbst,

Is there really a labor shortage, or are tech companies lobbying Congress for more visas and green cards simply to avoid paying Americans better wages?

With a B.S. in computer science, an M.A. in information systems management, and 20 years of experience, Rennie Sawade would appear to be a strong candidate for a job as a software development engineer. But all the 44-year-old can find these days are short-term, temporary jobs—like the 15-month contract he’s currently on at a Seattle-based medical device company. At Microsoft, the most prominent employer in town, he’s had contract jobs and even interviews for permanent positions. But after several failed attempts, he’s given up on trying to land a staff position at the software giant. "I feel like my time is being wasted," he says.

Just across town at Microsoft headquarters, in suburban Redmond, Wash., Kevin Schofield is grappling with what he calls a severe shortage of qualified workers. Schofield’s job is to help develop recruiting strategies to stay ahead of rivals like Google (GOOG), IBM (IBM), Yahoo! (YHOO), and SAP (SAP). The 40-year-old says Microsoft is desperate to fill 3,000 core technology jobs in the U.S., and there are so few Americans with the specialized skills required that the company needs to bring in more workers from overseas on temporary visas and permanent green cards. "There just aren’t enough people," says Schofield.

<ed.note> I’ve emailed Moira and asked her: "Would you please consider doing a follow-on article with the focus on the ideas I cover here, eg, that the problem is tech employers still demand old style relocation even though many tech related tasks can be completed remotely (whether overseas or from rural locales in the US)?"</ed.note>