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High-Tech Hiring: Youth Matters

In IT engineering, young hires tend to be more energetic and up to date. Older workers need to keep skills fresh, or aim for management posts

In the engineering globalization debate, the battle lines are drawn. Companies like Microsoft (MSFT), Intel (INTC), and Oracle (ORCL) say there are severe shortages of skilled workers and they need more visas to bring in foreign workers to stay competitive. Unemployed engineers say this push for more visas is a plot to suppress wages. My own research at Duke University has shown that there is no general shortage of engineers in the U.S.

The globalization debate shouldn't focus on the issue of visas. Instead, it should examine an issue that tech executives don't like to discuss: age. Tech companies prefer to hire young engineers. Engineering has become an "up or out" profession—you either move up the ladder or you face unemployment. In other words, even though globalization has compounded the difficulties for aging engineers, it's not the culprit.