The myth of retraining

One of the things I hear politicians say, especially near elections, is that the solution to the jobs crisis is for those who are unemployed or under employed to get retraining. This is a myth. It doesn’t help.

Here is my story.

I have a liberal arts education – a BA in Anthropology and an MA in History. Realizing that these did not bring the lucrative career I desired I also earned a MS in Computer Science. I worked for 5 years as a software engineer. The architecture I developed for one product is still used as a starting point for new, similar products. Another company developed metadata driven systems and I was part of the team that developed in Visual Studio.Net Beta 2. I am a very good software engineer. I understand the full life cycle and I can work on any part of it. I actually like doing maintenance programming.

Then the company churned through CEOs. In 2003 the new CEO decided that software engineers in Colorado were too expensive and could easily be replaced by double PhDs in Russia. My job (and the jobs of 75% of the development team) were outsourced. We were sent packing in quite nasty terms.

But no problem, right? Because I am a highly educated and skilled software engineer. In 2003, unless I lived and worked in China, India, or Russia there were no jobs for me. But, I also have experience as an educator, so I can teach. This is a great theory right up until they decide they only want individuals with PhDs.

I did want the politicians suggested. I returned to school to add yet another degree to my collection. I am nearing the end of my PhD (I am in the final stages). I should be good to go, right?

Now I am being told that I am over qualified for software engineering and research positions.

So, I remain underemployed working for a for-profit university teaching Microsoft Office.

And still I hear politicians and CEOs complain that there are NO qualified Americans to fill the critical shortage of computer and software engineers. There are lots of engineers like me – highly educated and skilled and looking. So why aren’t the politicians and CEOs beating down my door?

Currently, when I am called for interviews I am used as a spoiler – they never intend to offer me a job, they are simply proving that while there are qualified people out there they are not cheap.

The other piece of this is that while I am highly educated and skilled as a senior software engineer, I never call myself a hacker. Part of my PhD is in information assurance and security. I understand software assurance. I understand hacking. I don’t hack, in part because I think it is unethical. So, I am not a hacker. Perhaps I should become one. Then, maybe, just maybe, I would get that job offer. Maybe there is some retraining I should look into so I too can be a hacker.

Or maybe retraining is a myth.

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