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ICITA 2004 
 
IEEE Orlando Section
PACE
(Professional Activities Committee for Engineers)


Region 3 PACE Chair Report
 Recent efforts have been devoted to updating the roster of PACE section chairs, and reassessing the unemployment problem for electrical/electronics engineers and computer scientists/systems analysts. To this end, all Region 3 sections not listing a current PACE chair were contacted and requested to provide a name for the PACE function. In some cases, this was a section chair or past chair. That is a good choice because of the breadth of experience a volunteer has accumulated by the time s/he becomes a past section chair.
 
A problem was identified in the delay encountered in updating the RAB geographic roster with new information. The contact work was done in February, and most sections organize their offices for the coming year in December, but several sections reported that the information still posted in February was not the latest that they had submitted to IEEE Hq.
 
In connection with this roster updating was an effort to encourage participation in the Seattle PACE Workshop next weekend, for which Sean Haynes is both the conference chair and the Region 3 budget coordinator. There are 21 Region 3 attendees signed up who are not region officers.
 
The Grassroots Priorities for IEEE-USA in this Workshop include H-1B Visas, UCITA (Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act - a state-by-state issue but one with far-reaching implications), R&D Policy (as industry cuts back on R&D for engineering technology, goverrnment can take up the slack by pushing for a doubling of funding over five years in this field as it already has for the life sciences), and IT Security Issues (one of the problems with offshore outsourcing is the transfer of your personal data to India (where American Express has its service desk/back office operation now) or Malayasia.
 
Lee Stogner will present how services and products can be delivered to IEEE section members. Ken Doniger, chair of the Employment & Career Services Committee will present on members' careers, professional development, and employment issues.
 
One of the issues in continuing education is the funding of training for displaced engineers. The H-1B visas include a $1,000 fee to pay for worker training, but this typically has gone to students and to lower-level non-degreed workers -- not to the workers actually displaced by H-1Bs (who must have a degree or "equivalent work experience".
 
Communications at the section level are essential if PACE is to reflect the "real world" to our leaders on Capitol Hill. We have learned, for example, that unemployment statistics for engineers typically understate the extent of unemployment. This occurs because the method used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to define unemployment is a sampling poll, called the Current Population Survey. An engineer laid off for an extended period of time, who takes a job as a school teacher to make the mortgage payments, is no longer counted as an unemployed engineer, but as an employed schoolteacher. Even so, just taking the BLS data at face value, when engineering managers are also included, the unemployment numbers for EE/CS/SA approaches a quarter million.
 
One non-member, working as a direct employee in IT for a financial firm in Tampa, reported that she was being displaced as the work was outsourced to another firm. In that case it was not clear whether the outsourcing was overseas, but another case, in central Florida, involved replacing U.S. software engineers, working as consultants, with Indian software engineers, also working as consultants. The latter came into the U.S. through intra-company transfers on L-1 visas, from Tata Consultancy India to Tata Consultancy U.S., where they were detailed to the company purchasing their services much as a job-shopper would be. This case was highlighted in a TV investigation by an Orlando TV station and also reported by Business Week. The company, Siemens, well-known as a German maker of power equipment, had attempted to shore up its bottom line several years ago by acquiring telecommunications assets (the central Florida plant was a maker of telecom switching equipment). However, with the collapse of the telecom sector, it was attempting to cut its costs further. The company's response to the TV reporter stated just that -- it was a cost cutting move to displace 20 U.S. engineers and replace them with Indians.
 
Verizon Communications' chief information officer, known as a cost cutter, was quoted as saying he could hire three Indian software engineers for the price of one U.S. one (Wall Street Journal, March 11, page 1).
 
The PACE chairs in each section can assist by monitoring the unemployment situation and reporting it to area/council and regional PACE officers.
 
Newsletter editors can publicize the IEEE-USA Legislative Action Center, where links are available simplifying communicating with legislators on such key issues as engineering unemployment. http://capwiz.com/ieeeusa/home/
 
I'll appreciate any feedback from Region 3 members that may help in putting our case before the policy-makers.
 
For some other insights on the problems the U.S. faces, see the book "America: Who Stole the Dream?", by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele, 1996, Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel; paperback, $9.95 (241 pp.). It is available for bulk purchase at a quantity discount, from Special Sales Department, Andrews and McMeel, 4520 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64111.
 
The same authors earlier wrote "America: What Went Wrong?"
 
The cover notes that both authors are investigative reporters for the Philadelphia Inquirer who have won Pulitzer Prizes for their work.
 
George McClure
g.mcclure@ieee.org
407-647-5092
Fax 407-644-4076

 

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