Growth in IT Staffing is Key to Economic Recovery
Although the country is polarized on many issues, most Americans would likely agree
that a stronger economy benefits us all. Many sectors of the economy are growing, with
initial reports placing 2012 GDP growth at 2.2 percent. But the country’s overall growth
is still far below 4 percent, a rate generally considered strong.
A Technology CEO Council (TCC) study concludes, and I concur, that companies that
best leverage information technology (IT) will generate the most jobs and growth. To
return to robust growth, U.S. businesses must be prepared to increase productivity, fuel
innovation and leverage new staff and equipment. And to do that, they will turn to IT.
However, there are three socio-economic conditions that, if left unchecked, can be a drag
on this IT resurgence, but if fixed, can accelerate long-term growth: Immigration policy,
the cost of health care and the U.S. education system.
In working with Dallas IT recruiters, the IT sector is suffering from a serious skills gap.
Despite the high unemployment rate, IT managers can’t find citizens with the requisite
technical skills. Yet we continue to send foreign-born, American-educated engineers,
software developers, mathematicians and scientists back to their home countries after
they graduate. In 2012, the quota for H-1B visas (which allow U.S. businesses to
temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations) was filled in less than three
We need these science/technology/engineering/mathematics (STEM) educated
professionals to meet the current demand for IT positions. It is with their contributions
and talents that we can increase innovation and production, resulting in new jobs. The
United States continues to fall behind other countries when it comes to qualified people
to take STEM jobs, so we must rely on non-citizens who receive their education here to
help us ignite growth through IT. Note that between 1995 and 2005, foreign-born
entrepreneurs founded half of the firms in Silicon Valley, the center of U.S. technology
innovation. Immigration reform is a hot topic in Washington. I hope our legislators
finally act to update the antiquated quota system.
Health Care Expense
Health care continues to be a national issue. Having overcome a constitutional challenge,
the federal government is moving ahead with implementation of the Affordable Care Act
(aka Obamacare), although the law will do little to actually make health care more
affordable and competitive. Instead, I predict it will be a law of unintended consequences.
While Obamacare will no doubt affect large businesses, those organizations have the staff
and financial resources to better prepare and adapt to the law’s vagaries. It is the small-
business sector – our economy’s primary job-creation engine – that will suffer the burden
more. I can attest firsthand to the drain that the law’s Jan. 1, 2014, deadline is already
making on our company’s resources. Add up the considerable staff time necessary to
research, acquire and administer medical benefits and the negative impact to profitability
is astounding. Small businesses that aren’t preparing this year will find themselves
faltering next year. I predict that many entrepreneurs will intentionally cap their
workforces at 49 people to dodge the act’s requirement of offering health insurance to
payrolls of 50 or more. Small businesses don’t have pots of money set aside to cover
additional health care premiums. That money will come from other budgets, such as
investment in IT and new hires. Did Congress intend this law to thwart growth?
U.S. Education System
The need to reform immigration policy is a direct result of what’s lacking in the U.S.
education system. Our young people continue to fall behind their counterparts in other
countries, especially in science and math, the building blocks of future STEM careers.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development examines every three
years the progress of 15-year-olds around the world in key areas of study. The 2009
rankings weren’t good for the United States, with our children placing 17th in science
and 25th in math among 34 nations. This could have long-term consequences for U.S.
global competitiveness and will make skilled IT workers even scarcer in the years ahead.
No, not all high-school graduates should be expected to be software developers or
research scientists, but we are doing them a disservice if they aren’t STEM-literate. What
does that mean? Their education should prepare them to function in a knowledge-based
workplace, analyze complex data and solve problems in a digital world. If not, we are
only preparing them for minimum-wage, non-skilled jobs and not careers that will
increase American competitiveness. Information technology will lead the economic
recovery, but it won’t be easy as there are obstacles in the way. What’s unfortunate is that
the obstacles are of our own doing. The reworking of immigration visas is perhaps the
easiest to accomplish and there is hope that this will occur soon; but revamping our
education system and true health care reform are long-term, complex socio-economic
issues we keep avoiding at our own peril.
James Thompson is the CEO and president of The InSource Group, a Dallas IT staffing
and placement company offering contract, contract-to-hire, project staffing & direct hire
options. For information on Dallas IT Jobs, please visit:
James Thompson is the CEO and president of The InSource Group, a technology staffing
and placement company with an office in Fort Worth. He can be reached at