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Gerald Cohen, the outspoken founder and CEO of New York-based business intelligence software vendor Information Builders Inc., spoke with Computerworld on Friday about the controversy surrounding offshore outsourcing and the H-1B visa cap. Excerpts from that interview follow:
Bill Gates told an audience in Washington a few days ago that the U.S. needs to get rid of the cap on H-1B visas (see story). What’s your position on that? He’s full of it. He says, I’d hire a lot more American engineers if I could find them—they’re not available, and that’s why we’re going to China and India. He’s full of it. He’s going there because it’s just cheaper. He can find all the engineers he wants in this country.
A lot of CEOs of companies like yours are saying they just can’t find the people, so they’re lobbying Congress to get rid of the H-1B visa cap. That’s bulls—. A couple years ago that was true, and that’s when the cap was raised. You know who wants [to get rid of the cap]? The Indian companies. The way the Indian companies work is they have to have a certain number of people here, and a lot more people back there—so they’re the ones who want to get all these people in. And they don’t even pay them American wages—they just pay them as cheaply as they can.
I’m the chairman of the New York Software Industry Association. One of the programs we have is a federal government program that gives the city of New York money to run technical training courses for people in the city to upgrade their skills, so city companies don’t have to go overseas [for workers]. The program is essentially an H-1B replacement program.
In any case, you have no problem finding the skills you need for your company in the U.S.? No, I don’t. I go offshore strictly for price. I can get things done cheaper in Moscow than I can in New York City.
A lot of people say the education system in the U.S. is failing to provide qualified IT workers. You disagree? That’s bunk. Why do you have declining computer science majors? Because every parent is saying, Why major in computer science when all the jobs are going offshore? It feeds itself. And I guarantee you, if it doesn’t stop, in a couple years you’re not going to have much of an IT industry here.
So you feel the universities are doing a good job? Yeah, but they’re getting a declining enrollment. I’m on the board of the CUNY Institute for Software Development and Design, and I think [universities are] doing a terrific job of graduating competent master’s and Ph.D. program students in computer technology.
(Posted on May 5, 2005)