Get real, Bill -- we do need more H-1Bs for tech workers

Until we address underlying causes of developer shortage, we'll need all possible H-1B visas to keep the industry going

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The solution

I don't have all of the answers, and the ones I offer don't come easy. Part of the answer is simple: marketing. Remember the lean years after the dot-com boom? Everyone grew concerned that offshoring would destroy all the tech jobs. This caused an immediate drop in the interest in the field, and we have yet to recover.

The likes of Code.org is critical. We need more voices saying, "Yes, coding is accessible to the likes of you, and yes, it leads to almost guaranteed employment and a fat paycheck." We have to get coding into K-12. Next, most college-level computer science programs aren't getting the job done. They need reform, but other folks need to put together paths for students using a growing body of online materials.

We need to get the word out about MOOCS like Coursera. We need more vocational programs like those run by StarterLeague near my office in Chicago.

Companies have to bite the bullet and establish comprehensive staff development programs that help their staff's skills go from point A to point B. This needs to be the new normal -- not sending meaningless drivel to headhunters who spam us mercilessly on LinkedIn because someone knows jQuery and Ruby instead of jQuery and Node.js, and their employer decided to staff a Node.js "expert." Also, companies must finally learn how to run software projects rather than stamping agile terminology on the same idiotic SDLC waterfall, which should be buried, dug up, burned, then shot into space.

We also need to change the way companies hire. You don't need 10 Java developers with four years of experience with Activiti and five years of Spring. You need one such person -- and nine Java developers who understand state machines and dependency injection. It would be great if they knew that specific API, but let's not overestimate the learning curve.

Of course, all this takes time. Until then, there's only one course of action: increase the number of H-1Bs allowed, which will keep salaries from skyrocketing and maintain the United States' competitive edge. This should be combined with comprehensive immigration reform that encourages people here on H-1Bs to move to citizenship rather than leaving after six or seven years.

There aren't enough software developers. We need more and better ones, and not all of them need to join the 1 percent.

This article, "Get real, Bill -- we do need more H-1Bs for tech workers," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Keep up on the latest developments in application development and read more of Andrew Oliver's Strategic Developer blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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