Despite President Obama’s pledge to retain more hi-tech jobs in the U.S., a federal agency run by a hand-picked Obama appointee has launched a $36 million program to train workers, including 3,000 specialists in IT and related functions, in South Asia.
Following their training, the tech workers will be placed with outsourcing vendors in the region that provide offshore IT and business services to American companies looking to take advantage of the Asian subcontinent’s low labor costs.
Under director Rajiv Shah, the United States Agency for International Development will partner with private outsourcers in Sri Lanka to teach workers there advanced IT skills like Enterprise Java (Java EE) programming, as well as skills in business process outsourcing and call center support. USAID will also help the trainees brush up on their English language proficiency. USAID is contributing about $10 million to the effort, while its private partners are investing roughly $26 million.
“To help fill workforce gaps in BPO and IT, USAID is teaming up with leading BPO and IT/English language training companies to establish professional IT and English skills development training centers,” the U.S. Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka, said in a statement posted Friday on its Web site.
“Courses in Business Process Outsourcing, Enterprise Java, and English Language Skills will be offered at no charge to over 3,000 under- and unemployed students who will then participate in on-the-job training schemes with private firms,” the embassy said.
USAID is also partnering with Sri Lankan companies in other industries, including construction and garment manufacturing, to help create 10,000 new jobs in the country, which is still recovering from a 30-year civil war that ended in 2009.
But it’s the outsourcing program that’s sure to draw the most fire from critics. While Obama acknowledged that occupations such as garment making don’t add much value to the U.S. economy, he argued relentlessly during his presidential run that lawmakers needed to do more to keep hi-tech jobs in IT, biological sciences, and green energy in the country.
He also accused the Bush administration of creating tax loopholes that made it easier for U.S. companies to place work offshore in low-cost countries.
As recently as Monday, Obama, speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in Atlanta, boasted about his efforts to reduce offshoring. The President said he’s implemented “a plan that