back to article White House taxes Silicon Valley to skill-up American workers

President Obama will charge Silicon Valley a "user fee" to import more foreign workers and use the money to train up under-qualified Americans for jobs in the tech sector. Announcing his TechHire program yesterday, Obama estimated that the government will bring in $100m by opening up the H1-B visa program a little and charging …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Be afraid: The government announces that it will "bring in" stuff!

    Obama estimated that the government will bring in $100m by adding a charge onto the the H1-B

    Frankly, he could get those 100m by looking under the lorry that leaves the Federal Reserve printshop on a daily basis.

    I think the upper echelon really thinks people are utterly retarded. Oh wait, they are.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Be afraid: The government announces that it will "bring in" stuff!

      Be very afraid...

      Step one: Government starts charging tech firms for extra h1bs.

      Step two: Money used to train new it professionals, so they can get those 50% above median wages.

      Step three: Between increased supply of extra h1bs and new trainees, IT salaries start falling

      Step four: Having found revenue source that companies are happy to pay to get cheap labor, government expands charges to tech firms.

      Step five: Money from new revenue source starts going to pet programs that have nothing to do with training.

      Step six: Winners end up being government bureaucracies, tech employers and h1bs. Losers are American IT workers.

  2. Joe User

    Reality check for the President

    "A lot of these jobs don't require a four-year degree in computer science," the President said. "They don't require you be an engineer. Folks can get the skills they need for these jobs in newer, streamlined, faster training programs. What's more, these tech jobs pay 50 percent more than the average private sector wage - which means they're a ticket into the middle class."

    Many companies post job requirements that include everything but the kitchen sink. And if the applicant doesn't have the required education level, Human Resources won't bother with their resume, no matter how experienced the applicant is. Even if the company did hire this applicant, they wouldn't pay a good enough salary to live in/near Silicon Valley. Sad, but true....

    1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Reality check for the President

      My experience with the CS degree requirement was that it's BS. I was certainly brought in for interviews for positions that nominally required qualifications I didn't possess such as a four-year CS degree; I can no longer remember the specific qualifications for the jobs I've worked at, otherwise I would say I was hired despite my lack of on-paper qualifications. On the other hand, having a degree or certification is useful for checking certain boxes when you either lack experience or are facing hot competition for a position.

      1. asdf

        Re: Reality check for the President

        >My experience with the CS degree requirement was that it's BS.

        Going to fan some flames here but honestly the biggest difference I noticed between the US and continental Europe in this regard is the US companies seem a lot more interested in work experience (how it should be IMO) and the Euro companies really wanted school transcripts and care a lot more about grades even after you have been in industry for almost a decade. Might have to do with it being so much easier (and cheaper) to get rid of an non performer in the US so less concern up front on degrees and titles.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Reality check for the President

      My employer, a large multi-national in Semiconductor Manufacturing wont even look at you if you don't have a degree.

  3. elDog

    I think this could be a piece of a good idea but not enough

    It won't help with the off-shoring of jobs which are performed outside of this country (US or any other country worried about the problem.)

    I completely agree that a bunch of jobs don't require a traditional four-year degree to be an effective employee. However the HR departments generally aren't good at looking at real-life experience. Another recent posting talked about MOOC training and how HR was totally flummoxed figuring out how it applied.

    Many countries are now operating as essentially "certification markets" where there is intense emphasis on gaining a technical certificate (Microsoft, Cisco, etc.) so the applicant compete on- or off-shore. Perhaps a bit more emphasis on being familiar with the language/idiom and customs of the hiring country might be helpful. Perhaps this is but it wasn't obvious 10 years ago.

    Another recent story (on NPR?) was about undocumented immigrants from the US being shipped back to Mexico where they are manning call centers for US customers.

    Aren't most of the problems here cause by having these artificial lines that delineate country boundaries? What is to be gained by restricting flow other than protectionism and nationalism?

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    It's not about the education, stupid....

    The visas exist not because there aren't enough bods to fill the jobs (at least when they started issuing them). It was because the citizens who could fill them were, shall we say "pricey". Corporates wanted to cut the pay expense by importing labor and off-shoring others. Unless the "user fee" plus wage of the visa fueled labor is less than the pay for a citizen, companies will just pay the fee and figure they're still saving money.

    I seriously doubt that this "plan" won't change anything except create another layer of bureaucracy in the government while making the voters, etc. feel good.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I sometimes wonder whether insisting on applicants having a 4-year degree is more a way to weed out the riff-raff than to get fully-qualified candidates. Not necessarily my opinion, but you can imagine some people thinking that someone with a degree is less likely to be dishonest/lazy/criminal, etc. Despite decades of equality and fairness legislation, there's still a great deal of 'it's not what you know...' when getting a job, especially in a close-knit sector like 'tech'.

  6. undefined


    We actually have a large number of unemployed older IT workers who already have more training than is needed for most of those jobs. They are not, however, 25 years old, with exactly two years experience in the latest technology and willing to relocate to Silicon Valley and work for whatever corporate America wants to pay them. H1-B visas should require forcing an equal number of executive vice-presidents to relocate to the appropriate third-world nation and take a pay cut to whatever is common there.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Companies are already laying off Americans to replace them with H!-B visas.

    It is not about lack of trained employees and never has been.

    1. Chands

      Re: Companies are already laying off Americans to replace them with H!-B visas.

      This does seem bizarre. On one hand Tata/Infosys et al are abusing the H1-B visa system for replacing expensive American workers with cheap labour and now Obama wants to OPEN UP the H1-B visa system to help train up employees in IT ? This is just counter-intuitive, or technically speaking assbackwards.

  8. Hud Dunlap

    Hey El Reg

    Who's in the picture?

    1. Kingston Black

      Re: Hey El Reg

      Not 100% sure, but I think it may be Admiral Grace Hopper...

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Hey El Reg

        Dead on correct. Have an upvote. The commentard who asked needs to turn in his pocket protector...

        Psst... right click on the photo... "grace hopper programming".

    2. naive Silver badge

      Re: Hey El Reg

      IBM 370 console.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Degree: Yes or No?

    Although I am an extremely strong supporter of more education at all levels, I have to back some of the counter comments of this forum.

    Why? Personal experience. Decades ago both my brother and I entered the construction industry through the same union, helped by our already unionized uncles. My brother excelled, running small jobs while still only a 1st year apprentice. Now entering his 50's, he is earning about $100,000 a year, his beautiful home is paid for, and he is thinking about retiring with a huge union pension. Good for him.

    I, on the other hand, did not excel. I was constantly laid off, bounced from company to company, and finally, after 20 years, left the trade, and union in frustration 25 years ago, and now am 64 years of age, earn around eight to ten thousand dollars a year doing odd jobs. I had the exact same opportunities as my brother in every way. As a matter of fact I had more. I had 4 1/2 more years of formal education. I topped my final semester of trade school, ( I have a plaque somewhere to prove it), I am far more literate and widely read, but that made no difference. I was a square peg in a round hole and should have bailed early but the money, when it came, was too good to walk away from. I am what is called "a good exam taker" but you would regret hiring me. So, when comes to certificate vs experience, all I can say is, Let the hirer beware."

    P. S. I have a 1st cousin whose story is identical to my brother's, same trade, same companies.

    P.P.S. I have been reading El Reg for years and it sounds like IT is rife with similar square peggers. My sympathies to the average Reg reader who does seem to know his ass from his elbow, or at least is willing to learn the diff. Cheers!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ageism? or wageism?

    The real issue may be the wages for these positions are too high in the eyes of corporate america. If you have the skills, or the experience, or the degrees, or the certifications, or one, more, or all of the previous a position requires, then you cost too much. Even the "perfect match" often isn't hired for some lack of soft skills or other "disqualifying factor". Wages happen to rise with age/experience in a field or even overall. When a position requires 5+ years experience and a BS degree, the 20 year veteran is overqualified with or without the degree. The applicant with the right qualifications will have low wage requirements even if lacking other skills or experience.

    On occasion evidence of the scam gets out. How does one obtain 5+ years of experience administering windows 2012 active directory based networks in 2015? We can assume we know what was meant was two qualifications of 5+ years network admin and windows 2012. But, the applicant screening checklist is built from the position requirements so nobody actually qualifies.

  11. asdf


    As a US taxpayer I would much rather see the person imported than the job exported even if it means more competition. Obama though like so many other clueless non IT VIPs seems to think all anybody needs to code is some training. Of course as most on here know, this is not the case and it takes a certain kind of mind to be successful (good at breaking large tasks into small steps, strong logic, excellent recognition of patterns, enjoying solving problems, etc). In fact most of the best developers I have met have done quite a bit of self training as the type of mind mentioned before naturally seems to lend itself towards development and tinkering. Also half the reason some of the code coming out of India (and other outsource havens) is lucky to even compile is this same kind of everyone can be a developer thinking is pushing every person who wants to get ahead to become an overnight IT expert. And corporations complain how many IT projects fail. The wonder between the inept yes man middle management and lowest bidder or outsourced development is that any projects succeed at all.

    1. undefined

      Re: hmm

      Absolutely. A corporation doing a H1-B should basically be required to fast-track the imported worker as an American citizen, instant acceptance, with full voting rights and the right to switch jobs after 2 weeks notice, the same as the rest of us. None of this indentured servitude for pennies on the dollar crap. I doubt there would ever be more than a handful of H1-Bs requested after that was enacted.

  12. Dave_94302

    Cynical but Stupid - Another DC Fail

    The purpose of the H1-B visa program is to import cheap slave labor and to then lay off the American workers.

    Training more US tech workers will simply result in more unemployed Americans. Duh.

    What needs to happen is for thousands of people to go to jail, and I do not want them to hire an Indian to go to jail: I want US citizens to go to jail for this.

  13. herman Silver badge

    Scary job

    In that photo, I dunno which is more scary, the console, or the lady's hair style...

    1. Mpeler

      Re: Scary job

      Well, time to learn a little history. That's not the world's first touchscreen, and though she might not have a hairdo that meets today's *cough* standards, it was far more normal than the beehives and other "constructions" of the day (early 1960s).

      The woman sitting there is none other than Grace Hopper, one of the greatest contributors to computing, man or woman, and creator of the COBOL programming language (that would be COmmon Business Oriented Language, an acronym).

      Look her up. Computing didn't start yesterday, and the "old-timers" made much more out of far less than today's bloatware programmers tend to do (cf that damned ribbon and UI eye-candy from Micro$oft)...

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