[The push to expand the limit on H-1B visas, which would allow more highly skilled tech workers into the U.S., is an important topic to many high tech companies, including Microsoft. In case you missed it, here's a story on that topic that ran Sunday in the print edition of The Seattle Times.]
Last year, Mitchell Erickson earned what he believed would be his ticket to a lucrative new career: a bachelor’s degree in computer science and software engineering from the University of Washington, Bothell.
Erickson, a former community-college philosophy instructor, feared his days of making a living teaching symbolic language and logic couldn’t last. So sensing an intellectual similarity between philosophy and computer coding, Erickson decided to go back to school.
Though he was then in his late 50s, Erickson figured the drumbeat of complaints from Microsoft and other tech companies about a dearth of good applicants promised an easy career switch.
Nine months past his graduation, however, Erickson has yet to find full-time work.
“When I saw my (philosophy) career was going to be over, I retrained myself,” Erickson, now 60, said. “What good is that if I’m not actually going to get a job?”
Erickson is among hundreds of thousands of jobless or underemployed programmers and engineers nationwide who’ve had difficulty finding full-time work despite reports of a scarcity of qualified American high-tech workers.
Microsoft, for instance, says it has such trouble filling its more than 3,000 vacancies for software developers and engineers it expects to offer a third of those jobs to foreigners, the vast majority of them recruited off U.S. college campuses.
The national unemployment rate for computer and math occupations is about half that for the general population.But the plight of the struggling workers in those fields has become a flashpoint for controversy in Congress over immigration reform, specifically how many more skilled foreign workers to allow in and under what terms.
Erickson, who graduated with a 3.52 GPA, has applied for more than 150 jobs, several of them at Microsoft. In February, he finally landed a job he enjoys as project manager for a Web-development company. But it’s only part time.
That seeming paradox stems from a host of factors.