Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events


Posted by bsflag2007 on Thursday, November 16, 2006

If “outsourcing” is the practice of sending jobs “out” of the country (or the company) – is the increasing practice of recruiting labor from overseas “insourcing”?

How do we feel about insourcing?   I’m not talking about migrant workers brought in to pick lettuce or mow grass — that’s a whole other can of worms.  I’m talking about what should be highly skilled future of our society kinds of labor-  especially three areas I have recent experience with – health, education and travel.

Having been a recent guest in three of the regions health care facilities, I can report that recruiting for nurses from foreign countries is not a myth.   A quick research project into the regulations/standards applicable to nurses coming to the US to staff our hospitals leaves very large cracks, and I can tell you that I was less than thrilled with the quality of a number of these nurses.

Some of our struggling major airlines are also trying to turn to foreign labor – not due to shortages, but in an effort to reduce labor costs by replacing higher paid American workers.  Maybe folks aren’t too concerned about the replacement flight attendants – but  having airplane maintenance moved to other countries with lower wages might be of some concern.

And then there is education.   We are told there is a nationwide shortage of teachers, particularly in the areas of math and science.  More and more school districts are turning to the Phillipines and other foreign countries to recruit teachers.  Baltimore recently hired a whole boatload of teachers from abroad to man its’ hard to fill posts.  But that’s Baltimore, right?

Wait — if you caught the League of Women Voters’ Board of Education Forum, you would have heard our very own Mrs. Gordon say that we should start looking into hiring teachers from other countries – like Puerto Rico  ( Mrs. Gordon was a teacher for many years… many years ago …. must not have been geography … or history …. or government ….) to address our difficulties finding qualified math and science teachers.

The arguments for recruiting teachers from other countries – actual foreign countries like the Phillipines – generally start off with the notion that we have a shortage of qualified people here in the United States.  But we quickly get to the real problem, work loads and compensation.

The benefits for the “insourced” labor are obvious.  A teacher recruited from the Phillipines to Baltimore will make more than three times more money in Baltimore.  Yes, the cost of living is higher, but dollar per dollar they will be earning a higher standard of living and consider Baltimore an improved work environment.   Plus there are the potential manipulations of the Visa/immigration system.

But what are the real benefits/costs to the school systems?   Are they really recruiting the best and the brightest — or do we “get what we pay for”?  If the cracks in the teacher standards are as wide as those for the nurses (and they are) we should all be wary.

The temporary benefit is that Boards of Education don’t have to face the daunting task of reexamining negotiated contracts with teacher labor unions, they can fill classrooms at minimal cost with warm bodies, and they can buy time.

But it is only a temporary fix because once the “recruit” settles into American life, those who are talented in math and science will find more lucrative options with more desirable working conditions — just like the “regular Americans”.  Or are we planning to make them some kind of indefinitely indentured servants?

We definitely have a shortage of talented math and science teachers — we don’t have a shortage of people who could be great math and science teachers.  We have a shortage of will and vision – and actual leadership.

Insourcing our health care, our airline safety and the educators of our children – what a great idea! — with all the money we save, we can insource a foreign army to take care of our military/defense requirements……

cindy v.


3 Responses to “?Insourcing?”

  1. Right of Center said

    I think the biggest problem is the giant nursing shortage. There simply aren’t enough nurses in the US to fill our needs. And no one seems to be willing to invest in training nurses (there aren’t even enough nursing instructors to create a nurse pool), so, what else are we to do?

    Now, I’m a capitalist, so I believe in throwing open the borders and letting the market sort it out. More government regulation won’t help – the only thing that will is for-profit nursing colleges and licensing in the US – the market will fill the void.

  2. My sister-in-law is changing careers at the age of 42. She is training to be a nurse. She says she learned that the reason a nursing shortage exists is not a lack of trained nurses but that trained nurses are leaving the field for admin positions, and pharm. sales, etc. The pay is better in those positions. She is encouraged by the number of students in her class and that they span the age spectrum.

  3. bsflag2007 said

    I am all for recruiting “the best and the brightest” — I like having doctors and nurses who are the best we can find, regardless of national origin.
    If the best nurses were the ones trained in the Phillipines or Indonesia, I wouldn’t be questioning the practice …. I’d be asking why those trained in the US weren’t better.

    What concerns me is that we are allowing industry (hospitals/airlines/schools) to fill jobs which require high levels of training/skill with “imports” not trained in America and with extremely lax enforcement of standards because it is “cheaper” or “easier”.

    The “average American” assumes that the imported labor is required to meet the same standards as those trained in the US — but there are many loopholes, in addition to variations in training standards which ultimately effect the relative quality of the actual level of competence.

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