Job Security in an Outsourced Tech Economy

Whether you believe outsourcing helps or hurts the economy, it has been a fact of economic life since the late 19th century when California miners found it cheaper to ship dirty clothes to be laundered in Hong Kong rather than to an American laundry.

Since then the quality and quantity of jobs being outsourced have increased. Between 2001 and 2008, nearly 10 million manufacturing jobs were lost to plants located overseas. During the same period an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 professional services jobs were moved overseas. Of those about 150,000 were in the software industry. Not even the public sector is immune to outsourcing. The total value of outsourced state and federal tech projects gr3w from $10 billion in 2003 to $23 billion in 2008.

If even the best-paying, most education-intensive and taxpayer-financed jobs are vulnerable to outsourcing, is there a way to position your career for security against outsourcing? Yes — and you must start by looking at the other side of the outsourcing equation.

Just as some American companies find savings in using highly educated, underutilized workforces in countries like India and China, many foreign companies find advantage in hiring American workers to perform some functions. They now employ 5.4 million Americans with an annual payroll of $307 billion through U.S.-based subsidiaries. These insourced jobs include high-paying ones in research and development as well as in manufacturing, sales and marketing. About 20% of all U.S. exports are created by Americans employed by foreign companies.

What more proof do you need that with proper positioning you can not only secure your career against outsourcing but even capitalize on the growth in insourcing?

What kinds of jobs get outsourced? In a nutshell, jobs that satisfy clearly defined functions in the context of mature sectors with intense competition. Functions that require constant adjustment to changing consumer tastes or client demands are poor candidates for outsourcing. For example, it’s often efficient to outsource the writing of blocks of software code but it isn’t efficient to outsource the process of defining the software’s features, design and documentation.

Here are seven types of tech-sector jobs that are the most immune from outsourcing and, conversely, most likely to experience demand from international companies looking to insource to compete in the U.S. market.

1. Defense/Aerospace/Homeland Security.

Most tech jobs in defense- and security-related fields require some level of security clearance. Since clearances are only given to U.S. citizens, these jobs aren’t subject to outsourcing. In 2005 specialty employment agencies report experiencing upwards of a 185% jump in demand for workers with security clearances. The growth in demand should continue for years to come as homeland-security-related companies try to become fully staffed. Next

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