Outsourcing or offshore-sourcing?
Here we go. There's been much noise lately about jobs going overseas, particularly tech jobs being outsourced to places like Bangalore in India. Much wailing and wringing of hands over the prospect of lost tech jobs in the U.S.--especially Silicon Valley, which still suffers from a major tech job slump.
There's this article in Business Week that's making the rounds via email, a related News.com story, one at InformationWeek, and this thread from Slashdot (mostly arguments about the economic factors at work). There've been threads on the TECHWR-L and SV-Web mailing lists--more hand-wringing, along with some nearly racist and xenophobic remarks. Oh, and J.D. Lasica heard about opportunities in Dubai. I've seen plenty of complaining, worrying, ranting about corporate profits and corporate executives, suggestions to boycott companies that move jobs offshore. What I haven't read much of is solid ideas about what each one of us can do to make sure we have a paying job in years to come.
The year I moved to my current residence, the city was in the throes of a strike by cannery workers. The canneries--really mostly frozen-food processors--paid decent wages to their workers, but the unions wanted more. And they wanted the canneries to stop sending jobs to Mexico. So they called a strike, which lasted over a year, and resulted in one long-time cannery closing down for good, and two others merging to try to stay afloat. Did the workers save their jobs? No. They succeeded in reducing the number of cannery jobs, leaving most of the striking workers not only out of work, but suffering from lack of income during the strike's duration.
I said at the time (18 years ago), and I stand by it now: the unions failed their members by trying to keep jobs that were leaving anyway, instead of training their members for new opportunities. If they'd had some training in computer skills, they might have had a chance. (The Seagate story can wait for another time.)
So my questions for today are, if some of our jobs are going offshore:
- What are the jobs, industries, technologies, skills that are likely to stay here in the U.S. and/or Silicon Valley?
- What new skills, technologies, knowledge do we need to pick up in order to get (or keep) those jobs?
- Where and how are we going to get that training?
Some of us may think we're getting too old to learn new tricks, but the alternatives don't look that good. I'm always up for learning new skills--that's why I keep taking classes (primarily from the UCSC Extension), and keep pushing my employer to provide training not just in their products but to improve employees' skills. And that's why I volunteer as an officer of Silicon Valley STC, and go to conferences such as CHI 2003 and the annual international STC event.
I say it's more important to identify future opportunties and prepare for them than it is to try to hold back the future. What do you think?