by Brian Bridges
Thursday began by spotlighting Pennylvania’s initiatives to utilize technology in support of professional development and classroom integration.
This session got off to a bad start when the governor of Pennsylvania, via a recorded speech, completely got wrong the effect of the flat world. He told a story of American companies who were granting H1B visas to field computer programmers for their companies. His call for educational reform was based on the idea that American workers weren’t prepared for these programming positions that pay between $45K-$50K/year.
OK, let’s step back. What talented American worker, having gone to a four-year college, would settle for this salary range, one that was easily double to triple a few years ago. The governor referenced that these H1B workers were making four times their home country salaries, which I’ve no doubt is true. However, what he completely missed is the flat world has enabled the Wal Martization of technology careers, moving jobs abroad or bringing cheaper labor here to increase profits.
He is right that we are competing not with ourselves, but with every country. The flat world has shortened the path and broken the barriers between workers and employers. Cheap, high-speed Internet and an increasingly large pool of talented, intelligent workers from abroad are quickly threatening high-skilled, and well-paid technology positions here at home. This is a natural effect of the flat world. There will always be cheaper workers, whether it be for making shoes or writing program code.
I would challenge that American workers aren’t prepared. Instead, I’d suggest that we’re really not prepared for a complete salary paradigm shift. As a society, we’ll either need to reduce our expectations or we’ll need to innovate new industries and applications. We either need to expect less of our employers and our government, or we’ll need to adapt our educational system to create more innovative professionals.
I’ll concede that we need to raise expectations for our students and reform education to increase the American talent pool. However, politicians rarely see the complex dynamics that are intertwined in the solution. Perhaps I’ll climb that hill another day.