Posts Tagged ‘Engineers’

The myth of America’s missing software engineers

August 6th, 2013

The U.S. has an engineering shortage, right? Well, not exactly, no.

While the titans of Silicon Valley are calling for immigration reform that will allow them to nab foreign computer gurus to fill open engineering jobs, one of their own has crunched the numbers and discovered that may not be necessary., a California-based company that uses big data analysis to pair jobseekers with employers, released a report last month that showed that the supposed dearth of high-skilled engineers in the United States may be fiction after all. In fact, Bright’s analysis reveals that for the top 10 jobs where H-1B visas are requested, only three do not currently have enough qualified American jobseekers to satisfy demand.

“The main conclusion that we need more foreign tech workers is not true,” says David Hardtke, Bright’s chief scientist. “We need to be more targeted in our use of this program.”

To be sure, using data to argue about contentious policy issues should always prompt skepticism. It’s too easy to focus on particular aspects of any data analysis to prove one’s point and overlook those items that may raise more questions.

Bright took great care to avoid several pitfalls and make its data applicable on a large scale. It looked at H-1B applications and rewrote company’s job descriptions to make them more generic (it is common for a company to write a job description so specific that only one temporary worker fits the qualifications). Using the company’s proprietary Bright Score, which takes into account education and fit as well as proximity to the job, the data crunchers then compared the job descriptions with 1 million active U.S.-based jobseekers (out of a total pool of about 20 million) over 45 days

What they found was both troubling yet unsurprising. The most requested position when applying for an H-1B is computer systems analyst. Although Bright determined that this position has few qualified American candidates, it is also a lower-paying job compared to jobs like software engineer and requires only a two-year degree. The H-1B program is designed to recruit high-skilled workers.

For higher paying jobs, like computer programmer, software developer, and electronics engineer, Bright found more than one domestic job candidate for every H-1B application. And for financial analysts, the company found 12 local candidates for every visa application.

That evidence seems enough to get xenophobes up in arms, but these analyses are complicated. Ask tech companies in New York City or Silicon Valley if the pool of applicants for programmers is meeting their needs, and their first question will be, “Why? Please tell me you know someone who is looking for a job.”

“You have to talk about two worlds: Silicon Valley and the rest of America,” Hardtke says. “There is, indeed, a shortage of tech workers in the Bay Area.”

Another aspect of Bright’s report that surprised the data scientists was that the average salary for H-1B workers was higher than the median in each field. It would make sense that an employer would try to offer a lower salary to an employee it helped move to the United States since that employee also gains the benefit of getting sponsored, but the analysis found the opposite.

You could argue that this is evidence that these foreign workers are particularly valuable to their employers. The competition to recruit them is so fierce that they are actually commanding higher wages than their American counterparts.

But you can also look at the results another way. The government requires companies to pay H-1B workers the median wage for the positions they fill. If the top position filled by H-1Bs is the lower-paid systems analyst position, it’s possible that companies might be publicly posting openings for lower-wage jobs and filling them with extremely skilled programmers who are eager to work in the U.S.

It’s clear that employers are misusing the H-1B program based on the types of jobs they are looking to fill. Why wouldn’t they try to save some cash in the process?

The biggest users of these visas are not the tech companies that are calling for an increase in the quotas. They are outsourcing firms that hire foreign workers and loan them to other companies.

So why are so many tech CEOs getting behind, the organization lobbying to increase the number of H-1B visas? Through largely unbiased analysis of a huge quantity of data, Bright — which employs two H-1B workers — seems to have ruled out the more altruistic reasons.

Policymakers ought to probe the need for foreign technology workers and the intentions of those looking to hire them. A good start would be a close examination of the job titles, the actual roles, and the actual salaries of H-1B workers to see if this program has actually become a tool to drive down wages.

It’s also a good to idea to do a cost analysis of hiring domestically vs. internationally. The cost of hiring an H-1B worker is about $5,000. Using a recruiter for a domestic hire costs four times as much.


ExactSource Launches Breakthrough Candidate Matching Software to Address Growing Demand for Engineers

July 23rd, 2013

ExactSource, a national leader in the delivery of talent solutions and software to architectural and engineering firms, announced today the launching of ExactMatch, a candidate matching software system that will allow A/E firms to find high-quality candidates through a subscription-based recruiting model. This candidate matching system will automatically source and filter skill-level and project experience to match the best architectural and engineering candidates with the right firm in a cost-effective and confidential way.

In 2013, sixty-seven percent of companies across the United States reported that engineering positions are the most difficult role to fill. In turn, talent in the A/E industry continues to tighten and passive candidates have become less open to new opportunities. In order to address this growing demand for engineers, ExactSource has developed a software that will generate candidate response rates among well-qualified, high-ranking candidates far in excess of industry averages and deliver only the candidates that are relative to a firm’s specific needs.

ExactMatch works in conjunction with a proprietary discipline-based technology, ExactProfile, which assesses and catalogues more than 115 critical architectural and engineering discipline skill sets and experience levels that aren’t typically found on a resume. Firms are able to identify the exact criteria they are looking for in a candidate, and the ExactMatch software will source and match candidates quicker, while saving firms valuable time and generating return on investment.


Telecom ‘guys’ turn home business into a world-leading provider of software for engineers designing interior wireless networks

September 4th, 2012

Mario Bouchard likes to tell the story about how he sold his software to the world’s largest wireless equipment vendors while working out of his basement.

“It was kinda funny selling to Ericsson in Sweden, when we were four guys in a basement in Montreal,” said Bouchard, the CEO of St-Laurent-based iBwave. “That was a big win for us, and it gave us credibility.”

That deal in 2005 helped vault iBwave into becoming a world leading provider of software for engineers designing interior wireless networks.

Now a nine-year-old company, iBwave has offices just off the Trans-Canada Highway and has more than 300 customers in 80 countries. It was recently ranked 70th in Profit Magazine’s list of the 200 fastest-growing companies in the country — with revenue growth averaging 55 per cent in the last five years. The company is privately owned by Bouchard, Dominique Gauthier, another partner and some angel investors including André Tremblay, the former CEO of Fido Solutions and its precursor Microcell Telecommunications.

The company’s software, which sells for about $40,000 per licence, was used to plan the cellular networks of both Wembley Stadium, and the new Olympic Stadium during the London 2012 Olympics, and 11 other indoor venues. It was also used for the stadiums in South Africa, when that country hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

Bouchard started iBwave in 2003 after working for several years designing cellular phone networks for interior spaces, first with Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. and then with Telus Corp. Among the projects he worked on was the underground city, which at the time consisted of 32 kilometres of tunnels downtown. He said that project, done in the late ’90s, was among the first of its kind in the world, so there was little expertise he could consult. At the time, planning a cellular network in an interior space included a lot of sketches with pen and paper, lots of calculations and a little guesswork. Bouchard saw an opportunity to automate the process.

“There were no proper tools to do design,” he said. “It was incredibly frustrating.”

At the time, only a handful of engineers in the world possessed the “magical” skills to be able to make the necessary calculations to design interior networks. Bouchard and chief technical officer Gauthier, who worked with him at Bell, were among them.

“We basically dumped our brains into a software,” Bouchard said.

The software they designed allows engineers to load building blueprints, and much like a first-person shooter video game, it allows network builders to virtually walk through the buildings and conduct simulations. It also helps eliminate much of the bureaucratic work by preparing reports for each of the teams involved in building a network, like the purchasing department and the engineering teams.

Customers of iBwave are Network providers like Bell, Telus and Rogers, equipment vendors like Ericsson, and system integrators which are engineering firms.

In North America, iBwave software has become a standard software among stakeholders, so if Rogers puts out a request for proposals to cover a sports stadium, it will receive bids from firms using iBwave software, and when companies exchange files, they’ll do it with iBwave-generated documents.

“We have a certain control on the market, because it’s pretty hard to displace us,” Bouchard said.

The success perhaps initially caught Bouchard off guard — as he never intended to start a world-class company.

“When we started, our idea was to sell the software in Canada to Bell, Telus and Rogers, and a few companies in the U.S., and we were happy with that,” he said.

He realized he stumbled onto something big in the company’s second year when both he and Gauthier travelled to a trade show in Munich.

“The reaction was great,” Bouchard said. “They were lining up at our booth and freaking out about our software. It mushroomed pretty fast after that.”

Bouchard credits some of the company’s success to his willingness to take risks on projects that have not been perfected, and then to continuously roll out updates to improve the product.

“We just launch products, and people will tell us what they don’t like.”

He said his company has also benefited from good timing, as companies have been gradually paying more attention to interior spaces, especially to meet the needs of data-hungry phones and tablets.

“Once you have covered 100 per cent of the (country), the next logical step is to cover the buildings,” Gauthier said.

In the next few years, Bouchard said he’d like to attract more business in emerging markets like India, but to do that, the company will have to come up with a scaled-down version of its software.

“Trying to penetrate India at (our current) price is almost impossible,” he said. “We know we’re selling a Porsche. We’re trying to repackage the product to be able to sell a Mazda.”

The company also wants to create products to help building owners manage all their systems like security cameras, heating systems, and elevators.

It’s pretty exciting, because there’s a lot of room to grow,” Bouchard said. “It’s only the beginning.”


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