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Finally a boost for U.S. workers

IT training bill would be good for business as well. 5/11 ReleVents hed: Finally a boost for U.S. workers dek: IT training bill would be good for business as well. By James Mathewson

As I edit our annual training issue, which won’t see the light of day until July, I find one common theme from many of the sources we’ve talked to. Everyone wants to do more training. IS managers want their people to stay fresh on the technologies so that they can spend more time developing and less time learning on the job. And IT professionals want to do more training so they can keep their careers moving forward. Yet training companies are sucking wind because of low enrollment and tight training budgets. Something’s got to give.

Fortunately, a couple of astute legislators have put together a bill that addresses the gap between the need for training and the ability to pay for it. As a news item on our site describes, representatives Jerry Weller from Illinois and James Moran from Virginia yesterday introduced H.R. 1769, which would provide tax credits to employers for employee training. If the bill becomes law, no longer will training budgets be so slim that IS managers can’t afford mission-critical training.

Don’t get me wrong–the bill is no panacea. But it will help to get the tech sector back on its feet again. One of the under-appreciated aspects of this downturn is the effect the labor shortage has had on our economy. Forecasters had warned for years that the growing tight labor market would eventually catch up to the tech sector and would have a domino effect: Projects would be cancelled or delayed, orders would be scrapped, etc., because their are not enough qualified people to get the jobs done. We are seeing some of this now.

All of our studies over the past year related to the tight labor market suggest that their are plenty of warm bodies around, but employers are leery about stale skills and legacy experience. One of the ways in which I have urged MIS directors to think about their staffing woes is to hire older, experienced workers and train them on the new platforms and technologies. This suggestion has fallen on deaf ears because they simply don’t have the budgets to hire and train. They would rather hire H-1B visa holders with the demonstrated skills than American tech workers who have let their skills grow stale.

The hope of the bill’s authors is that it would get some of these older tech workers back to work and ease the tight labor market at the same time. If it has even a small impact in these areas, I’m all for it.

James Mathewson is editorial director of ComputerUser magazine and ComputerUser.com.

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