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Premji's plea to US over IT worker shortage

The growing shortage of IT professionals is fast becoming a serious issue in the United States, says Wipro CEO Azim Premji.
By HT Correspondent | PTI, Silicon Valley
UPDATED ON FEB 06, 2008 11:28 PM IST

The growing shortage of IT professionals is fast becoming a serious issue in the United States and the business leadership in the country needs to "take the problem by the horns", Wipro CEO and chairman Azim Premji said.

"America does not have the talent. There's a huge shortage of IT professionals here," Premji told the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Wipro is in the process of opening its first American software development centre in Atlanta and plans to hire 200 professionals here within a year. The work force would be extended to 500 within three years.

The number of awarded engineering degrees in the United States has dropped 20 per cent over the past two decades, according to pro worker-visa-advocacy group Compete America.

Premji, who strongly advocates that the visa cap would hurt American competitiveness, said the IT industry here needs to proselytize more to students about the benefits of computing jobs.

Outreach, he told the Chronicle, should be on the minds of any executive running a high-tech company. "One problem technology leadership needs to address is the stigma in students that it's futile to study for a high-tech career because all the jobs are going overseas to India, which for years has been the top source of H-1B workers employed here," the Wipro chief said. While some positions are lost, he said, there is ultimately a net gain of jobs.

American companies that can offshore work, Premji maintained, are more competitive and create more jobs domestically in the long run. He cited another common problem with many Americans and Europeans, who find computing and math courses boring or too difficult.

Premji, who features in the top 10 list of business tycoons recently compiled by the Forbes magazine, said schools in the US have to find innovative means to make math, science and computing interesting. "It is such an exciting area if it's well taught."

"The fundamental focus has got to be teachers. They have to be teaching math and science in a way that's exciting to students, he said.

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