America’s Labor Party

My title here refers to the…Republican Party.  No, of course the GOP hasn’t gone socialist, but it seems to be the only major party in which at least some people are speaking out in behalf of the American worker, at least for tech jobs. The party includes people like Senators Grassley and Sessions, and now even Ronald Reagan’s son is speaking out about the H-1B sham.

Reagan titles his piece, “Do Citizens Have a Lobby?”, like the powerful tech industry does.  Reagan’s answer is of course no, and he opens the piece with

I’m beginning the sympathize more and more with the average man who thinks the system is rigged against him.

And he notes that irony about what will happen when the SCE IT workers who were replaced by foreign workers apply for unemployment benefits:

According to News10, “with the exception of two managers, everyone inside the office [in the state employment department] is from outside of the U.S. They are employed by Deloitte, a major U.S. IT company hired by the state to create and manage its Unemployment Insurance Modernization project. The mostly Indian nationals are allowed to work here under a visa program called H-1B.”

Computerworld reports “Information technology workers at Southern California Edison (SCE) are being laid off and replaced by workers from India. Some employees are training the H- 1B visa holding replacements, and many have already lost their jobs.”

That’s really pouring salt in the wound. First the company makes you train the foreign workers replacing you then, after you’re fired, more foreign workers process your unemployment claim.

Reagan is beginning to sound like Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren — except that we aren’t hearing anything like that on H-1B from Brown and Warren.  Nor are we hearing from Democratic Senator Deborah Stabenow, who was quite critical of H-1B when she first ran for the Senate.  (She defeated Senator Spencer Abraham, architect of the 2000 H-1B expansion bill.)  Not a peep either out of Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell, who several years ago introduced legislation to tighten up the visa program.

And obviously, we surely aren’t hearing such words from our Democratic President Obama.  On the contrary, Obama has repeatedly advocated expansion of foreign tech worker program, and his constitutionally-dubious executive action to give H-1B spouses the right to work — WITHOUT them counting toward quota, mind you — is about to go into effect.

And today we heard Obama speak the by-now classic (nearly 20 years old) industry lobbyist line:  “We need American training and education for the future in order to stop depending on H-1Bs, but in the mean time we need that visa program.”  Granted, he didn’t quite go so far to say it that way, but the message was clear, given that H-1B employer fees will be used to fund the training programs.  This of course was the rationale given in the 1998 expansion of H-1B, which doubled the quota but instituted the user fees to fund training programs.

And to further the deja vu feeling, guess what kinds of programs will be funded?  Community college courses and the like (modern version: tech boot camps) — to train for jobs NOT taken by H-1Bs!  That is exactly what happened in the years following enactment of the 1998 legislation.  The fees were used to fund programs at community colleges to train technicians, not software engineers.  After a few years, the Dept. of Commerce did an audit and found that therefore the money wasn’t reducing the tech industry’s dependence on the visa program.  (See “Failing Grades: H-1B Fees Fail to Lessen Reliance  on Imported IT Skills,” eWeek, September 18, 2000.)

But note carefully that this “failure to lessen reliance” was NOT due to the funds being misdirected. Instead, the problem is that the money wasn’t needed to begin with.  We didn’t have a tech labor shortage then, nor do we have one now.  Wages for new computer science graduates are going DOWN, clearly contradicting the industry’s claim of a shortage.  What the industry really wants is cheap, immobile workers, and the training issue is a red herring.

I was pleased to see Obama become our first black president in 2008, and he obviously is one of the most intelligent presidents we’ve had, but even accounting for the politics, I cannot for the life of me understand why he has chosen to do the wrong thing on H-1B.  He can’t claim ignorance; on the contrary, the wife of employed electrical engineer Darin Wedel once confronted Obama in the latter’s online town hall meeting, asking him why he was supporting the H-1B program when people like her husband were out of work. (Wedel was partly handicapped by a need to stay in the Dallas area, but his failure to get hired in the EE hotbed region Dallas spoke volumes, especially since Texas Instruments, a heavy user of the H-1B program, is headquartered there.)

Meanwhile the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Republican Senator Grassley, has scheduled a hearing “Immigration Reforms Needed to Protect Skilled American Workers” for Tuesday, March 17 at 10:00 a.m.  What an ironic contrast to the Republican-sounding rhetoric of our Democratic president, who among other things is relying on an economist who says that immigrants work for less and extols that “benefit” to employers.

So my hat is off once again to Grassley and Sessions, and look forward to their hearing.  (I must add, though, that I hope the hearing discusses reforms to H-1B as a whole, not just addressed to the problems with the Indian “bodyshops,” always a top concern of mine.)

37 thoughts on “America’s Labor Party

    • I’ll guess: Ron Hira; someone from IEEE-USA, either Bruce Morrison or Karen Panetta; Lindsay Lowell or Hal Salzman; someone from DPE or CWA; maybe even a live victim of the bodyshops.


  1. Well, what can I say but OMG. Read the comments under any posted news article on H-1B, the population at large now gets it. Well, the population that posts on news blogs, anyway.

    But of course this little $100m training exercise is a new insult to the field. College isn’t doing the job, so we’re going to train – who, exactly to be “coders”? Is that what the field needs, more code monkeys? I think we have too many already. In fact, if we fired 80% of those currently “writing code”, the remaining 20% could probably finish all projects faster, cheaper, better.

    But really, what *is* the current proposal, Norm how about some links?

    So, there’s “TechHire” and then there’s a separate $100m project. Well, look at this, looks semi-official:

    So apparently a “boot camp” of unspecified duration, cost, and content is going to be introduced as the major initiative. All I can say is ROFLMAO. I wonder, if what they want is code monkeys, will the initiative start with real monkeys? They want to turn out purple squirrels, is that the plan?

    The absurdity of our current government structure beggars the imagination – except that it also mirrors that of the late, great, collapsing Roman Empire. What a cluster-f***.

    My own job search has been horrible for the last year as clearly employers are hiring junior people at junior rates and living with the results. Which *eventually* turn out pitiful new job descriptions with a long, long list of requirements which basically say, “We have a team of twenty and nothing is coming out, so come and join us and fix it all!” I indulged a whim and answered the last one, “Sure, no problem, at 1.5x your offered salary”, and the HR guy actually called me back and said, “Yeah, the hiring manager said this might happen, and he might go for it, he’ll fight for whatever it takes.” Smell the desperation. I said in my response, “I’ll fix things for you that a staff of twelve guys at your normal salary, will never accomplish”, and it seems that’s just what they wanted to hear. Well, this will go as it goes (and the odds of success here are about 0.01%), but the point is there is NO WAY ON EARTH this is going to be fixed by boot camps.


    • The fact sheet you found is essentially identical to the DOL link I gave.

      The boot camp aspect is rather hilarious. Remember, the industry lobbyists have been telling us all along that even a bachelor’s degree is not enough for them; they need people with master’s degrees, who just happen to be foreign students at U.S. universities. (Never mind that master’s wages are down even more than the bachelor’s ones.) Yet now, lo and behold, it turns out that a 10-week boot camp is quite enough! Wonders never cease.

      A report I heard last week, I think Thursday on Marketplace on NPR, proudly informed us that the graduates of the boot camps were making $30,000 per year.


      • $30k – doing what, I wonder. Not writing code.

        I’m actually having a discussion now with a newbie recruiter. I met with him yesterday for the first time, since he works for a recruiter who has actually gotten me work in the past I bent my rule of not doing such meetings. Nice “kid”, has been doing placements for PMs for a year or two, now moving into my database niche. Just sent me some links at and such listing salaries in the area. I never see accurate salary data online, not to mention that the range within a job title can be tremendous, 2x or 3x. You really can’t even trust an average of such data. Nonetheless, the indications of this data are horribly low, entirely depressing that any of these low values even exists, or that the average could be anywhere near the indicated values. Now, perhaps this has always been true, but it sadly just confirms my meme that 80% of the people in this field are just warming seats and slowing down progress, but then that is Sturgeon’s Law and it applies to everything in the world, not just STEM jobs. Still, we like to think there is *some* kind of meritocracy in STEM, if not in any professional or working environments. We like to think it, but it doesn’t seem to be true, is what I’m saying.


  2. The number of Democrats who do not get this is staggering on blogs. Of course, the blogs also have immigration attorneys who make their money by destroying the lives and jobs of American IT/STEM workers, and they also have a number of current and former H-1Bs, some of whom are open about it, and some of whom conceal their status (but not their inability to write correctly). But normal Democrats continue the party’s total stupidity about immigration. Just 20 years ago, the Barbara Jordan (no conservative she) Committee on Immigration indicated that illegals must be deported. Today, we have a virtual consensus in Democrats that all immigrants are holy and must be protected, and that the temporary visas should also not be questioned. Of course, there are many who have been burned badly by the visas.

    The first and only job of government is to protect US citizens from enemies foreign and domestic. The jobs visas programs are an unprecedented assault upon the US worker. I continue to remain appalled by the callous and unfair depredations visited upon these highly trained workers.


      • “Why have the Democrats …” is a universal question these days, and the answer is always the same, this is the Obamanation and the agenda is to dissolve any and all advantage that has over any other jurisdiction, for the most heart-felt reasons of fairness and world justice.

        But more locally and as perhaps you ask rhetorically it’s because your boy Zuckerberg has bought this result, merging the H-1B issues with the open borders and unlimited Hispanic immigration issue that, at the behest of Obama, the Democratic party has bought hook, line, and sinker.

        Thus Republicans who love the cheap labor side of H-1B (and also of cheap Hispanics) and the Democrats who hope to gain millions of new socialist and communist voters expressing their hatred of the Yankee by moving here and getting on welfare and voting for more via the Democrats, both support the merged bill. Brilliant politics. Also national treason. And who said it couldn’t be both?


      • > Agree, but it raises the question, Why have the Democrats suddenly shut down all their opposition to H-1B?

        I agree with some of what JRStern says. Many Democrats may feel that, on balance, they are doing the right thing. Many may have drunk the kool-aid being served up by the many studies being funded by lobbyists. It appears that Obama has in that I’ve seen three references on the White House web site to working papers that claim to have found that H-1B workers create jobs and increase the wages of native workers. This prompted me to write an open letter to Obama and my representatives which I’ve posted at . The letter describes why politicians should ignore all studies that have not been replicated. This should especially apply when the reason for the lack of replication is that the study’s author refuses to release the data as is the case with one of the studies referenced by the White House.

        Of course, the campaign contributions of Zuckerberg and other hi-tech magnates likely affects politicians on both sides of the aisle. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”


  3. Reading the comments here is always amazing.

    I’ve been working with some people here on the H-1B visa and they too say that we need to end the program today.

    It took me a long time to learn this, but most of us old timers are self taught and what enabled this was when the dept of labor wrote the requirements for computer jobs and said that a college degree is mandatory.

    I believe that is what shut the door on americans and opened the flood gates for the h-1b’s.

    Problem is, as the people I’ve been working with, a lot of the degrees they use to get these jobs are fraudulent.

    Case in point, there is a so called college, believe in california that they send me info on the other day that offers a masters in computer science in two years.

    As for the wages they are getting paid, I created a series of maps that show all visa applications for H-1B, H-1B1 and E-3 for the years 2014 and 2015 that you can view by clicking on the following link:

    And I’ve made them searchable by job, company, city, etc.

    After selecting your search criteria, you will see a map, and then if you scroll below the map, you will see a table report showing all of these applications.

    It is an eye opener if you haven’t seen it.


      • Well by not counting in the cap I mean to say these spouses should not be subjected to the regular H1B’ Lottery system. The government should certainly reduce the H1B limit from 85000 to a significantly lower number.

        On the other hand also note that H4 EAD is way too different from H1B.
        One H1B is equivalent to 1 job .. you have to first get a job and only then H1B gets sponsored. Thus the 85000 H1B’s take 85000 jobs in US every year

        Whereas the EAD for spouses is just providing them the RIGHT To WORK.. it is not providing them a job. Additionally the spouses might not necessarily jump in the job market.. they can be self employed by starting a small business. I do not forsee how a work permit will steal an American job .


        • The point is that granting spouses the right to work shouldn’t be used as a de facto expansion of the H-!B program. If the spouse takes, for example, a programming job, then yes indeed, the spouse is “stealing an American job.”

          By the way, 85,000 is the number of new visas granted per year. The H-1Bs stay for several years, even 10 years. So we are talking about several hundred thousand American jobs.


          • Nope the spouse is not stealing the job in any field .. The spouse is just getting the right to be available in the market for consideration. The employer and government can have complete right to make sure that an American citizen is being considered first and the DOL and other institutes can enforce better rules and regulations to do so. For instance Sessions and Grassley who have been so successful in blocking the immigration reform bills earlier .. today have enough power in their hands to make sure that the EAD for spouses is not being misused and American citizens are being considered first for each and every job opening.

            If there is a fear or paranoia among US citizens that the DOL and the employers will manipulate the law and replace American citizens with these EAD immigrants then that should tackled between by bills specifically targeting on how DOL should be scrutinizing the job markets and employers. However one cannot deny the “The Right to work” to a certain immigrant section who has lived here in US for years and tried their best to contribute to the US economy and assimilate in the culture.

            Coming back on H1B.. I completely agree with you.. yes there are 85000 jobs going away every year and assuming all H1B’s stay for a maximum period of 6 years makes its way way more.. You are also correct that granting spouses to work should not be an expansion of the H1B program.


          • You are confusing the executive branch with the legislative one. And Grassley and Sessions don’t have anywhere near the power you think they do. Obama’s circumventing Congress on this spouse issue is a perfect example of that.

            And don’t you think that your comment,

            However one cannot deny the “The Right to work” to a certain immigrant section who has lived here in US for years and tried their best to contribute to the US economy and assimilate in the culture.

            is self-serving, with an unwarranted tone of entitlement?


          • Yes my comment is “Self-Serving”. Its as much self serving as any American IT worker who is unable to find a job and is fighting against H1B sham. .. maybe my tone was incorrect..

            I am not confusing executive and the legislative branch. What I am trying to say is Sessions and Grassley today have the power to create a Immigration bill which is fair to the American workers and put it out there .. to pass the senate and house. Considering a republican majority there is a possibility that the bill can atleast reach the president’s desk.

            However at this point they are more concerned on blocking legislation and executive actions proposed by others. Thus bringing the immigration debate to a standstill. According to your research isn’t the current H1B system itself damaging enough for the American IT workers?


          • Yes, your tone was certainly incorrect, self-congratulating your H-1B group for “contributing to the U.S. economy” when in fact H-1Bs make Americans lose job opportunities and earn lower wages.

            Worse, you denied that giving work permission to the H-1B spouses will have the same kinds of effects, when it is plain as day that they will. Further, you first implied that the executive branch’s order forbids such a thing, and then said the legislative branch could impose such a constraint. Which is it?

            You also are ignorant of the fact that there really is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans on H-1B; both parties solidly support it. Senator Grassley has introduced good H-1B reform bills in the past (coauthored by Senator Durbin, a Democrat), only to see his fellow senators of both parties emasculate the bills and then kill them altogether. This year Grassley was given a position of some power by the Republican leadership, but what was given can be taken away if he does “too well” in that position, and in any case he of course still can’t get the Senate to support his bills.

            If you want to “contribute” to the U.S., you should fight the disgraceful corruption in DC instead of excusing it.


          • In neither of my comments I am praising or supporting H1B’s. I am only supporting fairness to the spouses of LPR applicants.. just like you are supporting fairness to an American IT worker

            Well it is infact plain as day that the NEW EAD rule for spouses proposed by DHS does not have any additional effect on the job market. As I mentioned in my very first comment .. it is merely changing the timeline of providing work permits to spouses of LPR applicants. So if you actually think that providing work permit to these particular spouses affects the job market then you should be concerned about it for years because these work permits are being provided since the past 20-30 years. The only difference is that the work permit application is now available at an earlier stage of the LPR process.
            “I would suggest you to read this rule carefully”

            My political knowledge isn’t very profound so pardon me if I am just over simplifying the procedures and the circumstances to create and pass bills.

            I am more than willing to fight this corruption in DC especially in the H1B area.. I strongly support your stance on H1B and I do realize the consequences faced by an American IT worker. In terms of job every job should first go to an American worker ..and only then an immigrant should be pursued. (I know this is not always happening and there is huge corruption in this area). however since an American IT worker is not getting a fair deal that does not mean every legal immigrants (IT or Non IT) should be deprived of a fair deal


          • I’ve understood from the beginning your point about getting work permission “at an earlier stage.” That means there is a window of time, presently years but possibly shorter depending on what happens with the rest of the EAD, during which the spouses will be competing for jobs with Americans, and during which they would not have been under the actual law. If you can’t understand that, there is no point in our going around in circles.

            As to “fairness,” the fact is that the H-1Bs are guests in this country. If and when they get green cards, that changes, and I welcome them as new Americans (and, unfortunately, new future victims of the H-1B influx). But until such time, they are guests, and as such the talk of “fairness” seems improper. And fairness would dictate that they count in the H-1B cap, at least if they take a tech job or something else suitable for H-1Bs.


          • Yes H1B’s are guests in this country. But an H1B who has obtained an approved I40 has on an individual level met all the eligibility criteria to become an LPR. The rest of the process is merely waiting in the line for your number to be called. At this point, the individual has clearly indicated his/her willingness to stay in USA and the government has approved it and asked him/her to wait in the line.

            If you think that this individual is same as the guest H1B coming every year and should be given the same non-immigrant treatment then I do not think we can ever reach an agreement on what is fair and what is not .. The individual is certainly not an LPR yet so I am not saying treat him as one. However it is very obvious and certain that the individual is no longer a non-immigrant or a guest


          • There is a reason why the number of green cards per year is capped — Congress wanted to avoid having too large a rate of inflow, as it would disrupt labor markets. In other words, Congress WANTED workers to wait for their green cards. While one can argue whether Congress was wise to cap the inflow on a per-country basis, the overall intention was clear. So, to say, “Oh, I will get a green card later and thus I deserve rights now” is unreasonable. While waiting, the foreign worker is, yes, still a guest.


          • I do not think any immigrant has issues with waiting .. Infact I would not even bother much with any of the “Fairness or rights” for immigrants if the wait period was a reasonable period and equal for all nationalities (Atleast for Employment based visas).. and thank you for pointing out the per country limit which is appropriate from a diversity point of view but is statistically and operationally flawed because it is creating an unnecessarily large bottleneck


      • Sorry, instead of amazes me, I should have said eye opening and yes, the spouses should be counted against the cap.

        Been sick with cold so I’m a bit behind on things.


  4. Hi Matloff,
    I understand we have discussed on the work permit issue for H1B spouses earlier. However if you read that rule carefully it is not providing any additional work permits.

    Not all H1B spouses can work. Only those H1B’s who have an approved I40 (First stage in LPR process) ..only their spouses get a work permit. In Reality even today spouses of H1B’s are getting work permits but only after the H1B has applied I485 (second stage in LPR). Providing work permits to dependants post I485 has been a rule for many years now. Obama administration is just shifting that eligibility at an earlier stage. Lets keep in mind the benifit is only going to the the H1B’s who are here for a long period.

    Based on the current sluggish LPR system the gap between Ii40 and I485 is a minimum of 4 years. So I would say the title of this rule “Providing work permit to H1B spouses” is quite misleading.. In reality this rule is “Providing work permits to spouses of LPR applicants at an earlier stage”

    I agree with you in your fight on H1B sham .. this should be addressed. However I do not agree on the fact that the work permits provided on this rule should be counted towards the cap. Work permit for a dependant who is waiting in the LPR process is a completely different issue.

    Also based on the current rules, these spouses are anyways going to work post I485 ..The new rule will allow them to work Post I40 ..3 years earlier.. that is it Post this rule EAD applications post I485 will drastically reduce


  5. This story goes a long way to explaining Obama’s enthusiasm for H1-B. Following the Bill Clinton model, Obama can look forward to a lucrative post-presidential career, say in the $100 million range anyway. Britain’s Tony Blair has also gone this route, including the sometimes unsavory connections Clinton is known for. The $ 100,000+ corporate speech is a mainstay, which may not seem corrupt, but the corporate or other establishment audiences don’t want to hear things that contradict their shared views, above all that more immigration is wonderful, especially those geniuses. Even George Bush makes a couple of million a year from speeches, though he may prefer to spend his time finger painting.

    ‘Why Silicon Valley is the new revolving door for Obama staffers

    The affinity between the White House and the tech industry has enriched Obama’s campaigns through donations, and it has presented lucrative opportunities for staffers who leave for the private sector.

    On Thursday, former White House press secretary Jay Carney joined Amazon as its senior vice president for worldwide corporate affairs. Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe runs policy and strategy for Uber, the car service start-up. And several other former administration officials are peppered throughout Silicon Valley in various positions, lobbying on important policy issues related to taxes, consumer privacy and more.

    Although a handful of officials from previous administrations have joined high-tech firms in the past, there have been “orders of magnitude greater penetration” under Obama, Randlett said, where figures such as Plouffe have taken the campaign’s tactics to the private sector.’


  6. I would like to take at least some of the credit for this development.

    When I ran for Congress against Anna Eshoo in 2010 and 2012, the
    Santa Clara County GOP was pretty much unaware of H1-B as an issue.
    They are certainly aware of it now.

    More to the point, since we have a Two Party System, and since the Democrats
    have made themselves the party of “all immigration, all the time”, the
    Republicans are naturally inclined to be opposed to H1-B.

    That fact that this is popular is a bonus.

    -Dave Chapman


  7. Thanks for the reference to Reagan’s piece on SCE IT.

    The cluelessness of all too many politicians is manifest by their very choice of words — you’ve rightly attacked “community college” as a solution. “Training” is not the same thing as “educating”; “training” is
    by definition a sort of teaching the bare minimum of certain desired actions without teaching the “why.” or the exceptions or limitations.

    We constantly see the results of (poor) statistical “training” in the articles by our opponents who (naively?) confuse the issue by throwing out some correlation or regression model to “prove” how good the H-1b program is for .America. I want highly competent, educated STEM workers who understand the limitations of any methods they propose and are committed to life-long learning and to doing their work as well as humanly possible. The MBAs and politicians rarely understand this.


  8. Yes, I saw that article and left the following comment at :

    I agree with the general conclusions of this editorial but it does contain one common error. It states:

    > By law these visa holders are only supposed to be used to fill jobs that can’t be filled by US citizens.

    In fact, Norm Matloff, an expert on the H-1B visa, states the following at :

    > This is incorrect. Employers do NOT have to attest that they have recruited American workers qualified for the job and they have not laid off any.

    > Unfortunately, it is a frequent error. In order to settle this question once and for all, I will explain the issue in full detail, with citations in the form of Web links.

    Matloff goes on to state that there is such a requirement for *green cards* stating:

    > 2. Often the employer of an H-1B is also sponsoring the worker for a green card (U.S. permanent resident status). Employment-based green cards DO require the employer to have tried to recruit qualified American workers for the job as a precondition to filing the green card application. However, due to gaping loopholes, this requirement is easily circumvented.

    This seems like a terrible law. Once an employer has trained the H-1B visa worker, had them work for him and found them proficient, they will be strongly motivated to circumvent the stated intention of the law. The search for a qualified American worker should be done BEFORE the H-1B worker starts to work. This is fairer to both native workers and H-1B workers who are seeking to obtain green cards.

    Other than this one error, I agree with the editorial that hiring H-1B workers to process employment claims is terrible policy. Unfortunately, such policy is common among our major tech companies who like that they can get workers who are tied to their companies and easier to exploit than native workers. But isn’t the government supposed to be concerned about the welfare of their citizens? The hiring of H-1Bs is often defended as a way to hiring workers with very unique skills for which no American workers can be found. The editorial states that, according to News10, “with the exception of two managers, everyone inside the office is from outside of the U.S.”. Are we to believe that all of these workers have unique skills for which no American workers can be found? I suspect the true story is that some low-level manager was told that he needed to staff his department with a limited budget and/or that he would be rewarded for saving costs. In other words, parts of the state government are driven by motivations that ignore, if not run counter, to the benefit of their citizens. The state government needs to publicly address and fix this immediately.


  9. I believe the major news sources all ran pieces extolling the boot camps in the last year, as part of the relentless PR campaign to sell the idea of a skills shortage / jobs go begging thing. This WaPo opinion was more balanced than most. Still they cherry-picked the best one I think, the Flatiron School, NYC.

    I suspect Flatiron does well because they can cherry-pick students, from a pool of many elite school graduates who can’t get jobs.

    Also it seems that there was a temporary squeeze at least for new graduates a couple of years ago – programmers were doing better finding jobs in the valley, etc. Now that seems not to be the case, as reflected in the the lower salaries in PACE data. Also employers hate the idea that a programmer is learning on their dime. They can easily be [over]sold on the concept of one who ‘knows’ exactly what the employer wants.

    The government is getting in at the wrong time, and expecting to take an at-risk inner city youth and turn him into a software whiz.

    I predict ‘programmer schmoe’ won’t do too well, but they will probably take one success, and give us his inspring story, neglecting the failures.

    ‘This month, for example, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited a New York-based coding conservatory, the Flatiron School, to see whether its training model might be worth replicating elsewhere around the country.

    Employers, students and policymakers seem to view such programs as the magic bullet for putting unemployed Americans back to work and closing high-tech skill shortages, and investors see them as cash cows. But many of the same kinds of overpromises common to the recently popped law school bubble may lurk in these coding academies, too. Policymakers should proceed with caution…

    ‘The bigger challenge, I fear, is how well these kinds of programs will scale.

    Unlike most training programs, Flatiron is extraordinarily selective. Its admissions rate of 6 percent rivals Harvard’s. All admits must go through interviews with both co-founders…

    I don’t blame Flatiron for cherry-picking its students; this makes sense, especially when it is capacity constrained. But the real test for schools such as Flatiron, and the many copycats that already have worse job-placement rates, will be whether they can take any shmoe off the street and turn her into a star programmer, as policymakers and employers are apparently counting on them to do.’


  10. On the number of H-1Bs issued, we’re talking commercial numbers, since many non-profits, including colleges, are outside the cap.

    ‘The United States issued 129,000 H-1B visas last year – almost double the official cap, since workers at universities and some other workplaces don’t count toward the limit. Those with graduate degrees from U.S. universities have their own quota of 20,000, a limit the tech industry hopes to see removed.’

    For Fiscal Year 2013 it was 153,000

    Click to access FY13AnnualReport-TableXVIB.pdf


  11. The PBS Newshour had a segment on coding boot camps on yesterday’s regular Thursday segment on jobs, ‘Making Sense.’ Can you guess which one they visited – Flatiron in NYC, as I posted earlier, probably the most successful boot camp.

    The eight minute segment and transcript are at:

    They totally bought the hype, traded in their journalist balance for feel good happytalk, and could really harm young people by pushing them into these boot camps inappropriately. I hope someone goes after them on it. People trust them.

    While searching for this story I stumbled on this ‘Making Sense’ episode by H-1B advocate Vivek Wadhwa from last year, which would tend to make journalist Paul Solman a believer before he went to Flatiron:

    ‘To save the economy, teach grandma to code’

    ‘I can just imagine the great possibilities that would come from holding such [weekend coding] camps for older workers, maybe even in retirement homes. I’m not kidding. Writing computer code isn’t very hard. Anyone can learn, and many can excel.’

    Paul Solman spent a lot of time interviewing co-founder and Dean, Avi Flombaum, a charismatic young man, whom I sense likes to make a good story better, stretching the truth in the manner of Bryan Williams, recently defrocked NBC News anchor. This program was fabulous free advertising for him, extremely useful if he and his venture capitalist backers want to franchise or otherwise expand.

    Here’s the beginning of the printed version, watch the video if you have eight minutes, and can take it. I’ll post more later.


    Coding academies offer fast track to good jobs
    March 12, 2015 at 6:30 PM EDT

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman visits New York’s Flatiron School, one of numerous coding bootcamps online and around the country that are designed to help graduates land jobs in a high-demand industry.

    GWEN IFILL: Now: becoming a professional computer programmer in just weeks.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman has the story. It’s part of our ongoing reporting Making Sense, which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.


  12. [Sorry to go on so – if you’re time constrained, watching the video is probably your best bet. Oh – and more to come. 🙂 ]

    Here are a few excerpts from the show. There’s the obligatory nod to diversity [it’s PBS]. One hard ‘fact’ that might be subject to objective criticism:

    PAUL SOLMAN: Twelve weeks of immersive coding, no experience required, at a cost of $12,000 to $15,000. But, at the end, 99 percent of Flatiron graduates get jobs as developers, making, on average, $74,000 a year to start.

    The WaPo opinion I referred to earlier says:

    ‘Flatiron is not yet three years old. But it boasts millions in funding from venture capital firms, a sizable job-training contract with New York City, and, most importantly, an enviable job-placement rate. An independent auditor found that 95 percent of job-seeking graduates secured work within 120 days; the average salary of those accepting full-time salaried positions was $74,000.’

    I was skeptical, but reading between the lines, I would expect many to have jobs after graduating – there’s not much else to do after blowing your $15k, and you’ve shown you don’t believe in college by going to the boot camp. So some at least may return to the low level jobs they had before. They would be counted in the 95% who secured work, but they wouldn’t drag down the average salary because they probably wouldn’t have ‘full-time salaried positions.’

    I assume that the 99% figure on PBS is a mistake.

    AVI FLOMBAUM, Co-Founder and Dean, Flatiron School: I think that, if you program today, you’re a man that can see in a blind man’s world.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Programming is big right now, says Flatiron co-founder and dean Avi Flombaum, and it will be even bigger in the future, which growth in coding jobs forecast to be double that of job growth overall.

    AVI FLOMBAUM: There’s just such a demand for these kinds of skills that, if you are competent and you are passionate about this and you are a self-driven person, there are more opportunities than we can possibly fill.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Twelve weeks of immersive coding, no experience required, at a cost of $12,000 to $15,000. But, at the end, 99 percent of Flatiron graduates get jobs as developers, making, on average, $74,000 a year to start.

    PAUL SOLMAN: At Manhattan start-up Wizard Development, Amador now makes double what he used to. It’s jobs like his that drew current student Geraldina Garcia to Flatiron. She dropped out of college to attend.

    GERALDINA GARCIA, Flatiron School Student: I kind of got into the tech industry and realized how unimportant a college degree really is.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Garcia, who had majored in computer science, joins a growing chorus of those questioning the value of a degree from a traditional four-year university, especially if it means assuming debt.

    WOMAN [GERALDINA GARCIA] : A lot of my friends that graduate this past year and the year before are still looking for jobs. I think part of the reason for that is, is that they know a lot of the theory, but they don’t have hands-on experience.

    LEWAA BAHMAD: Why go to college for four years and work up a corporate ladder to get in the position to do something great, when you can just learn to create something great?

    PAUL SOLMAN: Now, the dropout and code approach isn’t for everyone. After all, the unemployment rate for those without a traditional college degree is double the rate of those who graduated. Moreover, few applicants get into Flatiron at the moment. Its 6 percent acceptance rate rivals Harvard’s, but, insists founder Flombaum, literally anyone can learn to code.

    PAUL SOLMAN: But whatever the historical reasons, a young boys club it has been for years. There are efforts under way to make the coding community more diverse. For instance, Amador attended Flatiron as part of a New York City-sponsored free fellowship for underrepresented groups.

    NATACHA SPRINGER: In the tech industry, it’s mostly men, a lot of, like, 25-year-old men.

    PAUL SOLMAN: And it’s not just that the field is dominated by young men. On TV, and in reality, most of them are either white or Asian.

    PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, the jobs are there for pretty much everyone these days, so many Web sites, so much software, the programming pool will simply have to grow to keep up with demand.

    [ A graphic flashed on the screen at the end, something about 1.7 million jobs in 2020, but I didn’t really see it well, and it’s not on the video replay or transcript.]


  13. My feeling that Avi Flombaum may stretch things a bit is partly based on this longer personal interview transcript with Paul Solman [some of it is the main video]

    [AF speaking about himself in the year 2000, age 15]

    AF: …And they gave me a test and I passed it and they said they ’d pay me $10 an hour to code over the summer.

    So I went home, I told my parents and they were like, “You’re lying. We don’t believe you.” And I was like, “No, I have to go to work tomorrow. This is not a lie.” And they came with me to work the next day to this startup and walked in and met the CEO and said, “So this is the real thing – you actually hired my son for the summer.”

    the idea of being a programmer – that wasn’t really a job that you just could get. You didn’t have Mark Zuckerburgs or Bill Gateses then — world-famous, so that people understood, “Oh, you can be a self-taught programmer and be employable.”

    [Now in 2000 the media was full of the amazing Mr. Gates’ story – AF did not invent the concept of the self-taught successful programmer. The media hyped Gates and the Internet boom, helping to cause the stock market bubble and ensuing crash that we’re still recovering from. They helped the corporations and executives make money then, just as they still help them by hyping the STEM shortage today, including now this little niche of coding boot camps, which will push more people into the field.]

    AF: Yeah. It even happened again when I was in college in my sophomore year: I [was recruited] by a hedge fund, and they told me to drop out and just go and work there as a programmer. And I told my parents that and they were like: “No, we are not approving this until we actually see this office.” And they came to the hedge fund and they thought I’d set up this whole office. They were opening drawers, looking at people’s…

    PS: Come on!

    AF: I swear. They were knocking on walls to make sure I didn’t set up this whole ruse to convince them to let me drop out of college.

    [This seems like too good a story. Even credulous Paul Solman exclaims ‘Come on!’, but in a friendly, believing way I think. [It’s in the video.] I think PS is amazed by the parents’ doubt; he’s not having doubts of his own about AF’s story. Of course this is all just my speculation – AF’s story could all be true.

    Entrepreneurs by nature tend to stretch things: ‘puffing the goods’ is part of salesmanship. Even Steve Jobs’ admirers spoke of his ‘reality distortion field.’ Walter Isaacson in his biography said it might have caused Job’s early death from cancer. He hated the idea of being ‘cut open,’ and convinced himself that he was special and safe from harm until it was too late.

    The following is in the video, but not this interview transcript:]

    AVI FLOMBAUM: The way in which I learned how to program was one of the darkest times of my life. I was in high school, and I was all alone, and I had no support. And it was really a struggle. So, with all the beginners that come through Flatiron School, we very much talk about what the process of learning something difficult feels like, and not to give up, to just continue struggling through it, because, one day, you will understand it.

    [A surprising dark note, but something they say that’s fixed at Flatiron by support. I’m sure if I [retired software engineer] or most people I know were to try to become industry-ready programmers [from scratch!] in 3 months, we would feel dark and struggling too.

    Avi and his co-founder interview every student applicant. I’d speculate that besides evaluating them, Avi tries to get the chosen few to really commit to themselves and him [and he’s impressive, charismatic and successful – someone you could follow] that they will make a max effort to succeed in the program. That they truly buy in to the Flatiron program – maybe without any direct words spoken about it. There would be a powerful group feeling, a camaraderie, and not wanting to let others down, that would drive people through this difficult course.

    If Flatiron has achieved even part of what they say, they’ve accomplished a great deal; it’s very impressive.

    But I don’t think the copycats will be nearly as good, and when Federal funding is approved for boot camps in general – watch out!

    The ‘easy money’ story of programming jobs could cut both ways for industry – it raises the question of why we need H-1Bs. You know the answer.’The boot camps are great, but until we can carefully extend them with good quality control so that more Americans can attend them – we temporarily need to fill in with H-1Bs. 😦 ]


  14. Y’know, you can learn to use an arc welder in about an hour. Yet if you are hired that day you get only newbie wages, and you are not going to be a journeyman for several years, and even then you are not a structural engineer.

    Yet somehow we’re supposed to believe that 90 days of bootcamp makes you “a programmer”? Well, sure, and maybe 90 minutes can do that, but you aren’t going to be a “software developer” until you’ve been through the SDLC for a complete system at least twice. And hopefully learned something more than coding, like the rest of the SDLC process.


    • So true
      So many things have to be considered.

      making the development, test and production environment exactly the same has always fixed problems for me that others could not fix.

      Reverse engineering of the system, and / or data.

      Inheriting systems that were developed outside the IT dept.

      So many things.

      And then the skills to bridge the gap between the ivory tower, the business stakeholders, and any outside vendors that have been brought in


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