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Anyone read the NYT article on foreign workers and the tech industry?

  1. Jun 28, 2013 #1
    Wonder what some of you with experience think of this article, as much of it contradicts what I've been told: is the job market for engineers hard or soft?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2013 #2
    Is this the article you are talking about?


    I just read it. It doesnt seem to be making too bold of claims. As an "underemployed" physics grad, I guess that I oppose importing more people that will compete with me for a career. But I know that I dont really have any marketable skills and that is what companies need. If they cant get skilled labor from me and my fellow grads, they will get it elsewhere.
  4. Jun 29, 2013 #3
    This makes me feel like I should have just quit school and became a janitor or a mechanic...or a garbage man! I still cant find a job after 6 months of searching.
  5. Jun 29, 2013 #4


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    Don't worry. Once the current immigration (read amnesty) bill is passed and signed into law, you'll have plenty of competition for the janitor and garbage man jobs, too! Nothing cures high unemployment like bringing in a lot of extra people to find jobs for.
  6. Jun 29, 2013 #5
    Thanks for your responses, and yes ModusPwnd, that is the article I was referring to. I suppose the part that concerned me wasn't so much the desire of tech companies to solve what they perceive as their labor issues (or more cynically, to drive down costs.) The part that perked up my ears was the part about many older engineers being unable to find a job in the current market, combined with salaries that haven't risen to reflect a shortage of skills. How specific do your skills have to be before an employer takes a chance with you (that with the plus of a proven track record?) And if the current skills aren't desirable enough to pay for in terms of salaries that reward the existing labor for keeping skills current, or in terms of compensation for retraining, how can they be truly in demand? Those two realities don't mesh well together.
  7. Jun 29, 2013 #6
    In my experience, they need to be very specific.

    In many cases this means the workers aren't nearly as skilled and in demand as they think they are. This is where long term unemployment comes from. I dont think Im seeing the discrepancy here...

    What companies need (what I have gleaned they need from job postings) is very specific skills and low expectation of pay. US grads often have broad academic knowledge and high expectations of pay. This is why they need/want foreign workers. There will never be any reason for them to say stop importing potential employees or stop pushing for more graduates; the bigger the pool of applicants for them the better.
  8. Jun 29, 2013 #7


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    The companies are greedy and lazy. Plenty of nonforeign workers ARE willing to both accept training or retraining on-the-job and also take lower wages, just to return to being employed again.
  9. Jun 29, 2013 #8


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    Have you thought of leaving the US and seeking work elsewhere? Say, to Canada, Australia, or even to Asian countries like Singapore.
  10. Jun 29, 2013 #9
    I don't have the money to move and I only speak English. So I don't think I could, though I've thought about it.
  11. Jun 29, 2013 #10


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    The countries I have listed above (Canada, Australia, Singapore) are all English-speaking countries, so the fact that you only speak English won't be a barrier. Of course, you can also spend the time looking for work by trying to acquire other skills, such as language skills (through online material and courses such as Coursera).

    As for not having the money, that could be a problem, but not insurmountable. If you apply to firms based there and they express an interest in potentially hiring you, the employers will more than likely provide the funds for you to relocate (if they do not, then those are companies that are not worth working for).

    Another option that may be worth considering is joining the Peace Corps. Some advantages of joining include deferment of student loans, free medical and dental care, and 2 years of international work experience.

  12. Jun 29, 2013 #11
    I know this is going to sound bad, but I am thinking about just going to graduate school and toughing out the student loans. I was going originally, but I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after being hospitalized and it through me through a major loop: lost a funding opportunity, a years worth of graduate school, $10000, and the opportunity to be recruited for a job (I have to explain this gap in my history some how).

    The prof I was originally going to work for will allow me to start in his lab again, but I would have to wait until he gets funding again (he hired a student to replace me as the timing of my hospitalization was just before I accepted his offer).

    I've never even considered the peace corps. I don't think they'd let a bipolar person in anyway :)
  13. Jun 30, 2013 #12


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    There is something fundamentally wrong here!

    How is it that an undergraduate can graduate without marketable skills?!

    Personally, I've had experience with undergraduates who cannot write properly (I've experienced college graduates barely writing, in some cases unable to write, at a 10th grade level), and I know companies have programs to help new hires (graduates from US universities) learn to write in proper English. To me that inidcates a profound and fundamental failure in US education, and I consider it alarming that the eduction system has been allowed to deteriorate to such a level of dysfunction.

    It that is what the 'tech' industry is doing, then that is immoral and unethical in my opinion.

    It is not appropriate to import 'temporary' workers while avoiding addressing the underlying problem of deficiencies in the education system. How is it that foreign workers are receiving the appropriate training and developing the requisite skills, while domesitic workers are not?! That cannot be a mere coincidence.
  14. Jun 30, 2013 #13
    Personally, I've had experience with professional engineers who cannot write properly, do math, use Excel, etc.

    It's not just the education system in the US that is the problem.
  15. Jun 30, 2013 #14
    Quite easily. Performing well in classes is not a marketable skill. I think most college grads come out educated, but unskilled. That's the nature of a liberal arts education.
  16. Jun 30, 2013 #15
    I've looked into Canada. I concluded its not much of an option. They really only want people who are rich, oppressed/refugees or skilled. A college grad is usually none of these things. They will not take an unemployed college grad as a skilled labor immigrant.

    I always assumed that moving to a developing country, like somewhere in Latin America, would be easier. But that is not something I have looked into.
  17. Jul 1, 2013 #16


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    Right now, you are college/university grad without any marketable skills. Last time you mentioned you are (or were) working as a pizza deliveryman -- have you thought about acquiring those marketable skills? If you can't afford to pursue a second degree at a college/university, why not seek further training through a community college in areas something employable e.g. mechanic, plumber, electrician, tool-and-dye-maker, etc.

    In Canada there is a shortage of workers in the areas I just described (in fact, I have read reports that up to 40% of all new jobs being generated fall into the skilled workers category). There is an especially critical shortage of skilled workers in the province of Alberta, due largely to the booming oil industry.

    Another option is to do what ParticleGrl had done and spend some time retraining yourself in statistics/data mining or programming (maybe contribute to open source projects). Those skills you develop yourself can be considered "marketable" skills, and with networking it would give you at least a shot at something different. After all, if you have time posting here at PhysicsForums, you have time to retrain yourself.

    Now if you are open to moving to a non-English speaking country, you should probably consider becoming an English language speaker. I know several people who have worked as English teachers in countries like Japan, Taiwan, and China -- the only thing required is a college/university education. I have also suggested the Peace Corps as well.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
  18. Jul 1, 2013 #17
    I dont see them on the eligible occupations list though. This list, http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/apply-who-instructions.asp#jobs

    Its pretty specific stuff, and it requires that you have been employed in the field already. If I could manage to get a career style job like one on that list, I wouldn't need to consider canada. :tongue:
  19. Jul 1, 2013 #18
    I think this is a little hard to sell. How can you convince a potential employer that you actually know as much/can do the same job as a statistician or programmer without the proper degree or even relevant coursework? Just saying: I studied these introductory books and programmed such and such, cross my heart? We still have to get through the HR filters to get called into an interview to prove yourself, not having the degree they ask for already puts one at a major disadvantage.
  20. Jul 1, 2013 #19


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    The list of eligible occupations are a very specific list identified by the Canadian federal government as being high in demand (actually, the mechanic/electrician/tool-and-dye maker would fall under category 2243). You could also have apply for positions in Canada and they could arrange for you to come there, under the "Arranged employment" category.

    There is also the Skilled Trades category here which I talked about earlier:

  21. Jul 1, 2013 #20


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    The key is NOT to go through the HR filter (or go solely through the recruiter), and the way to do this is to network. Attend career fairs or conferences, set up an account on LinkedIn, find people on LinkedIn who work in those fields and make connections, etc. It takes time and effort, but it can be done. For example, I did not apply for my most recent job -- I had a recruiter come to me through LinkedIn.
  22. Jul 1, 2013 #21

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    Yes, it's tough for a physics major is going to compete with a computer science major for a programming job where the product is a compiler or a database. So don't pursue those jobs. There are *lots* of jobs where programming is a required but nonetheless secondary skill. Of greater importance are the skills you learned as a physics major.

    It's tough for a physics major to compete with a liberal arts major for a general writing job with some news outlet. So don't pursue those jobs, either. There are lots of technical writing jobs where writing is required but nonetheless secondary skill. Once again it's those technical skills that are paramount.

    There are lots of other kinds of jobs where those technical skills are important. Some of them are technical sales, technical management, intellectual property law. Yes, you'll need additional education for the last two, quite a bit of it for the last.

    The common feature of these other jobs is that they meld some other skill with the technical skills one learned while obtaining that degree in physics.

    Suppose that some physics major used as many of liberal arts electives as possible studying classical languages, as many technical electives as possible studying number theory. Why do people do this to themselves? There's not one marketable skill here. The "real world" does not owe people a job.
  23. Jul 1, 2013 #22
    I've never heard of a physics major taking electives even remotely similar to those.

    I had no option of taking humanities electives. The only choices I had to make in my 3rd year were fluid dynamics and atmospheric physics (took both), some new course on renewable energies and something along the lines of medical imaging (also new). Fourth year electives boiled down to experimental spectroscopy, programming/instrument-based astrophysics, condensed matter theory or follow up elective courses in solid state or molecular physics. I took different courses as I went as an exchange student somewhere else (London), but my options were not really any more "applied" or "real-world"-ish.

    It's pretty sinister to assume physics students have some entitlement issues with getting a job. Most of us were good little nerds and did what our superiors told us we had to do to succeed, in many cases even without their support (I didn't have any from my family, I got all my motivation on my own). When we get turned down for phd's, summer research positions or internships and the like and have to go into the labor market with an esoteric skill set, often going back to the same entry level jobs some of us had as a high school student (I did), statements like your last paragraph (which was mild in comparison to some other comments I've read here) comes across as fairly disdainful and condescending...
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
  24. Jul 1, 2013 #23
    Thats the nice thing about data science/data mining right now- statistics training often leaves people a bit weaker on the programming side, and CS training leaves people a bit weaker on the statistics side. There isn't a proper degree yet, so its a bit easier to find a way in.
  25. Jul 1, 2013 #24


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    I believe you are betraying your American origins here. In many other countries (including the UK, if I'm not mistaken), science majors including physics majors have very little in the way of elective options available -- they pretty much only take physics and other related courses.
  26. Jul 1, 2013 #25
    I was a physics major. I was also a philosophy minor, so guilty as charged :) (It might be a US thing though). However, I also took a lot of math and some programming, and have developed plenty of technical skills on the side in the last decade and a half.

    Regardless, I get sick of the attitude that 'physics majors expect a job to be handed to them'. That description doesn't remotely describe my situation. B.A. in Physics, Ph.D. in Physics, 5 years of experience running a research lab, writing proposals, training workers, programming, performing data analysis, given presentations, reviewing DOE proposals and scientific articles, etc. Yet that attitude is the default one that is applied anytime I meet someone in industry.

    It gets REAL tiring hearing some engineer tell me that I have no real world skills when they can't add a macro in Excel or figure out that they tripped a breaker in the lunch room because the overloaded the circuit with 6 kW of appliances. It gets REAL tiring when the nice little HR ladies tell you their company can't hire you because you "don't have a degree in science; you have a Bachelor of ARTS".

    I'm not trying to compete with a mechanical engineer who wants to calculate stresses on a girder or a programmer who wants to write apps for an iPhone. There are plenty of interdisciplinary roles which I have a lot of real world experience excelling at, but am not given a chance because of the attitude of "you have no real world skills."
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