Opinion: We Trained Them, We Should (Be Allowed To) Keep Them

By Eric Chabrow  |  Posted 03-07-2007
America is at its greatest when we combine the talents of those born here with those who choose to live here. We literally get the best of both worlds.

It's not that we have much of a choice. As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich suggested in an interview with CIO Insight, demographic forces are behind our need for skilled workers as baby boomers rapidly move into their later years. "The baby-bust generation, people born in the U.S. between 1965 and 1990, will be in relatively short supply," Reich said. "Companies will have to worry even more about recruitment and retention than they do now. Immigration will become an ever more contentious issue because we'll need many more people than we have available to do all sorts of jobs, at the high end and also at the low end."

Bill Gates is concerned with the high-end jobs. In testimony before the Senate Wednesday, the Microsoft chairman says it makes no sense to open our universities to smart foreign nationals, educate them, and then keep them from working in our country. "America will find it infinitely more difficult to maintain its technological leadership if it shuts out the very people who are most able to help us compete," Gates testified.

He's right.

Gates also said the U.S. must improve its education system to produce the skilled professionals we need. That should include government- and business-backed retraining programs to help displaced American IT professionals by giving them new, marketable technology skills. But that will take time to accomplish.

Readers Respond: Talent on the Cheap?

The technology skills shortage here exists now, and we must act swiftly. To help meet that shortage, U.S. businesses find themselves either importing foreign talent—which is restricted by limits on the number of skilled professionals who can immigrate—or sending the work overseas in the form of offshore outsourcing. Where better to start alleviating the skills shortage than to allow foreign-born, U.S. educated I.T. pros to stay here and work to grow our economy? Better here than there.

Let me know what you think. Write to eric_chabrow@ziffdavis.com.