Finding talented labor domestically is increasingly difficult in the current U.S. hiring market, and studies show this trend will only worsen. Schools are graduating fewer American engineering students and the most experienced workers are reaching retirement age. Also, tightening immigration laws and visa caps make it more difficult to bring foreign workers into the country. In fact, the National Science Foundation stated in 2004 that the United States is facing "an emerging and critical problem of the science and engineering force." At the same time, countries such as China and India are producing far more graduates in areas like electrical, information technology, and computer-science engineering. This dynamic is certainly a factor driving a number of firms to consider offshore outsourcing. But is this a good thing? Until the practice becomes more prevalent, it will be difficult to measure the impact. For now, here are both sides to the argument:
The trends described above are a primary argument of those in favor of using offshore outsourcing to address the hiring situation. This group says this environment leaves firms with little choice other than to use offshore resources. In addition to getting needed resources, supporters say using offshore outsourcing helps engineers at home. Leaders from firms polled in this study (with and without offshoring experience) see the benefit of offshore outsourcing reaching far beyond the bottom line—they indicate it frees staff from time consuming, repetitive tasks. As such, using offshore outsourcing can expose employees (especially younger staff members) to more challenging tasks and enhance career-development opportunities.
Against offshore outsourcing
On the flip side, and perhaps a more common sentiment, is the perception that offshore outsourcing will only make the situation worse for U.S. engineers. This group expects an increased use of offshore outsourcing to take away jobs from American workers and eliminate opportunity for younger workers in particular. They add that if younger workers or students sense that the engineering industry is heading toward offshoring, they will be more likely to explore a different career because they might think their job would eventually be eliminated domestically. Lastly, this group indicates that the use of offshore outsourcing as a means to reduce prices could result in greater emphasis on the price of services than on quality of the product and experience—not to mention putting downward pressure on wages.