On this blog, I write a lot about how college-educated workers in India and other developing countries are now able to compete globally for jobs. It's a growing problem that most US students don't know much about. After all, we're much more concerned about job competitors in our same state!
Luckily, the job outlook is not as gloomy as I sometimes make it out to be. Many jobs will go overseas--even some that we college graduates thought were untouchable--but there are many reasons that companies will want to hire college students here too.
Still, as college students, it's nice to read articles like this one published on Saturday by the Associated Press. Apparently, even as demand for cheap labor soars, and the international connectivity makes outsourcing possible for jobs requiring a college major, India is beginning to find skilled workers in short supply.
India has 1.03 billion people and a huge English speaking population. Over the past 15 years, college enrollment has skyrocketed. Over 400,000 new engineers graduate every year from their universities. Indian workers do everything from accounting to graphic-development for video games--for less than half the price of workers in developed countries.
The Associated Press article, however, gives college students hope on several levels. First, it brings up the fact that many Indian college graduates are not ready for prime time when they graduate from college.
Since schools in India focus on memorization and tests scores, "'everything else is forgotten: the capacity to think, to write, to be logical, to get along with people' said Mohandas Pai, human resources chief for Infosys Technologies "The focus is cram, cram, cram, cram."
Companies are complaining that many Indian college graduates have "trouble with such professional basics as working on a team or good phone manners." Basic communications skills can be nonexistent.
And that's not the only reason we can relax a little. Another problem faced by India can be described by the article's headline "India high-tech industry out of workers." Indian universities are often operating below international standards--sometimes even with textbooks that are decades old--companies are faced with a shortage of qualified workers. Many experts say that of India's 400,000 yearly engineering graduates, only about 100,000 are qualified to join the job market.
James Friedman, an analyst who has studied the issue, reports that over 500,000 qualified people would apply for 50,000 jobs when outsourcing to India first heated up in 2000. Now that Indian firms want to hire around 180,000 people a year, however, there are only between 100,000 and 200,000 applicants who are capable of doing the job. And workers are becoming more scarce by the day.
Suddenly, the law of supply and demand no longer works so well for India. Fewer workers for more jobs = higher wages. Since much of India's outsourcing appeal is in the low wages, this will be a big problem for international companies.
So, even though outsourcing will be an issue facing college students, the article gives reasons to breathe a little easier. Many international companies will not be so excited about the coming higher wages in India and needing to spend money just to bring workers up to speed.