Shortage of Database Engineers?

This Workforce Magazine article is typical of the “STEM shortage shouting” genre: There is an acute STEM labor shortage; employers are desperate to hire, but the only way to do so is to poach from another firm; workers are inundated with job offers; long-term solutions include getting more women and minorities into the field, often via novel educational vehicles, but the short-term solution is H-1B. I’ve seen hundreds of such articles since the industry lobbyists made their first big push for expanding the visa program in 1997.

The following excerpt is very telling:

“If you’re looking for a database engineer on job boards, good luck,” Siegel said. “A database engineer in San Francisco is courted by recruiters every single day. That person will never look for a job again for the rest of their career, jobs will go to them. There’s too much interest.”

I asked a database engineer whom I highly respect to comment, anonymously. He writes

Out of the four (including me) database professionals I know, exactly none has received, over the last three years, an offer for permanent work at a higher salary than before. We all get absurd low-ball offers all day long, but so what.

Once again, this goes back to comments Wharton’s Peter Cappelli has made repeatedly, that a so-called “shortage” is often actually a refusal among many employers to pay market price.

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12 thoughts on “Shortage of Database Engineers?

  1. ABET does not accredit a “database engineering” program. Many states are very protective of the “engineering” profession. The Secretary of State in my state will refuse to register a company with “engineering” in the name unless it has a Certificate of Authorization from the registration board. (It happened to several engineering students we know who tried to form a company.)

    STEM professionals need to demand that companies properly classify their positions and the education and experience required. This will make it more difficult to lowball salaries for guest workers.

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  2. I’VE POSTED SAME AT THE ARTICLE

    I don’t doubt that it’s hard to find people willing to take jobs in SF or SOMA areas. Where will they live? Apartments within 10 miles of SF and at the BART stops that are not ghetto are over $3000 per month. Even at $100k salary, after tax that is most the paycheck.

    Why don’t these employers relocate to somewhere like Sacramento where housing is affordable and business rental is much cheaper too?

    The article states “While politicians and lobbying groups scuffle over the issue, companies that have been all but shut out of H-1B visas are left to figure out their own solutions to the STEM skills shortage.” Who is “shut out”? Over 85,000 H-1b have been issued each and every year for the past decade. Meanwhile New U.S. STEM grads have difficulty finding their first job as the market is flooded by H-1b taking those entry jobs.

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  3. I’VE POSTED SAME AT THE ARTICLE

    The article contains the false claim “Executives and recruiters fault the U.S. education system for failing to provide enough training to keep up with present and future demands for STEM jobs.” Nearly every does not require a BS degree, but rather several years of specific experience. Example:

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/sof/5370363868.html
    Required Skills
    • 5+ years of developing applications using Java, Spring, Hibernate
    • Full stack experience and working knowledge of Javascript/Jquery, HTML and CSS

    It does not take five years to become proficient in http://www.hibernate.org. The fact that employers can make these absurd demands is evidence that they need to screen out the masses of applicants with only two years of such experience.

    I see ads requiring 2+ years developing Android. Other than very recent grads, no one would have learned this in college. Where are the employers advertising for “Android with no experience?” All employers are expecting that some other employer was willing to hire an Android developer with no experience.

    Here’s another. What are the odds that even an H-1b would have all of these skills? (Note that BS degree is not a requirement.)

    http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sfc/sof/5369972356.html
    Required Skills
    •Strong Java development Skills (Minimally 5+ years)
    •Experience with Scala is desired
    •Experience using frameworks like Spring, Hibernate, Play and Akka
    •Experience with Big Data technologies like Kafka, Storm, Spark is a strong plus
    •Experience with REST web services (AWS is a strong plus)
    •NoSQL databases MongoDB or Cassandra
    •Good communication/ personality
    •CS/MS in Computer Science or related degree is strongly desired

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  4. I’m inundated with contract offers “urgently” requiring my response. Require dropping everything I’m doing and completing the application process within a few hours including my Skype ID because they will be setting up Skype interviews. Also require “right to represent” confirmation. Urgent! My background isn’t 100% but it’s the closest they have…. Then I never hear from them again. If I call I get some story…. so I think they collect good but imperfect resumes from Americans then either don’t present or present negatively…talking us down to the customer. The qualifications listed are many so we’re almost never perfect.

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    • Yes, I’ve noticed some similar strange behavior from some job agencies. They’ll send me urgent job postings and many will require some specific skills that I don’t have on my resume. I don’t have time right now to follow false leads so I take myself out of the running on those. Meanwhile, I haven’t heard a peep from any companies that I’ve applied to directly. One highly touted agency has a contact page where you can leave a name, phone, and email and request that someone contact you about job opportunities. I left my contact information there twice and got no response. I guess my contact info lacks in qualifications! I was thinking of leaving a name that could more likely belong to an H-1B worker and see if I get a response.

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  5. What is missing is what strikes me in these articles.

    What kind(s) of data-base engineering? Is it really engineering or only coding in a particular context?
    What are they doing (besides posting to on-line job boards) within the state, in neighboring states, across the USA?
    How much do they have set aside for flying candidates in for interviews? Relocation? Training?
    Are the projects ethical or not?

    Nothing for the latter according to the article. IOW, they’re hardly trying and believe they’re overburdened.

    They don’t want to publicly admit to the over 153,794 H-1B visas issued in FY2013, and over 162,239 H-1B visas issued in FY2014. No, we must ignore the actual extent of the devastation and only refer to the phony-baloney “caps”.

    And they’re surprised that fast-food cooks aren’t getting the same pay and benefits as federal judges, that senior software product architects who can more-or-less handke with “Greek math” (or can work well with mathematicians who love to wallow in it) are paid more than even highly-skilled janitors… conveniently ignoring the millions of unemployed USA citizen STEM professionals (largely because of those lazy mathematicians who still haven’t managed to define the result of division by zero and my tongue is only partially in cheek here).

    The use of the term “Greek math” is a tell that we’re dealing with a B-school grad (who probably got straight “A”s… shudder), who doesn’t recognize the difference between being low-skilled in skill-set A versus highly-skilled in skill-set B, doesn’t recognize that there is a range of levels within every skill-set, and that while there is some over-lap in skill-sets, being good in one does not *necessarily* mean you’ll be any good in another…though you might.

    Which takes me back to the comment of one of my CS professors, just over a year ago, that any of these computer software, sys admin, data-base jobs could be handled by the average-bright student with a good foundation and the normal new-hire training. Well, normal before H-1B.

    Happy Chanukah! Merry Christmas! Celebrate the return of more day-light and decrease of SAD, now that solstice is past.

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  6. This is not unusual for other IT and related fields (business analysts, project managers, etc.). After a long string of job requirements, a rate half to two-thirds the going rate will be offered. This is especially typical of Silicon Valley. It obviously indicates a demand for CHEAP labor and downward pressure on rates due to an oversupply of labor. The article Norm quotes is “playing loose with the truth”. This fits in with other “puff” pieces that shade the truth to give an impression of a labor shortage in order to justify raising H-1B levels.

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  7. > Out of the four (including me) database professionals I know, exactly none has received, over the last three years, an offer for permanent work at a higher salary than before. We all get absurd low-ball offers all day long, but so what.

    That sounds more like the real situation in IT now. I stopped getting raises years ago, allegedly because American salaries are too high.

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  8. > I have a son graduated from Cornell, two years ago, No database jobs
    > available for him, ridiculous!!! where are the jobs.
    > Those people that write lies should be taken to JAIL and NOW not later!!!!!!
    > lOUIS

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  9. In the past several years our management has hired at least three incompetent or underskilled DBAs. These were in the Cary, NC area. Two were H1Bs. One has 11 years of experience on her resume but has trouble with basic DBA duties. We were told that we had to put up with what we got because they weren’t finding DBAs for the current salary offerings. Their current strategy is to search other parts of the companies for anyone that knows how to query a database. For some the qualification seems to be they can spell “DBA”.

    As long as IT mgmt doesn’t vet these candidates, these morons will continue to get hired.

    I’ve been sent offers for DBA positions and rejected them as I’m looking for a programming job. However I have noticed that the DBA and programming offers are $10-20 hour lower than 10-15 years ago.

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