SOURCE: Americans Work

April 30, 2008 06:00 ET

Texas Technology Companies Launch Program to End Offshoring of Jobs

Obama-Inspired Group Seeks Broad National Commitment of Businesses

AUSTIN, TX--(Marketwire - April 30, 2008) - Executives at technology companies in Austin have founded a business volunteer organization to provide American workers to businesses presently sending support and testing jobs overseas. Americans Work (www.americanswork.com) is designed to connect companies needing employees with U.S. communities trying to attract jobs and businesses. A pilot for the program is presently being launched in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

"This is not only good for our country," said Jack Holt, CEO of S3 Matching Technologies and one of the organizers of Americans Work. "It's good for our businesses. When you look at the incentives offered by states and communities transitioning from traditional manufacturing industries and the real economics, there is no longer a cost justification for offshoring. Besides, my clients want to speak to people in America."

According to Holt, who recently traveled to Johnstown to meet with economic development officials, customers who discover their call is offshored are often left with a sense that their business or concerns are not important. Language and cultural differences also lead to lower productivity and can reduce market share. Dell Computers, which was an early leader of the offshoring movement, has returned many customer support and call center jobs to the U.S., though the company still maintains similar operations overseas.

For some jobs, the cost of recruiting, relocating and retaining U.S.-based people was perceived to be a lot higher than offshoring those jobs. Americans Work intends to change that. Americans Work is cooperating with local governments to build an infrastructure that provides centralized access to job skills available in the US while removing the real and perceived cost difference, which allows companies can focus on where the best people for them should be located, instead of on how much they cost.

"We are counting on numerous businesses to join us in this effort to help the economy in our country," said Phil Gilbert, President of Lombardi (www.lombardi.com), a software company based in Austin, Texas that focuses on process improvement. "Eventually, we expect to have Americans Work job centers in numerous cities throughout the Midwest and we are confident this is a wise investment for any company."

Gilbert and Holt said the Americans Work idea was inspired by Sen. Barack Obama's call to national service. Organizers are convinced that American workers can compete in the global economy regardless of the low apparent cost for workers at overseas call centers.

"My company does business globally, and we have great employees and partners in many of those countries. We've found that it just makes sense to put workers close to the people they serve. At Americans Work, we're hoping to do two basic things. We gather together pledges of new 'service economy' jobs -- like call center or quality assurance jobs -- to create a marketplace of outsource-able work. Then we work with local governments to provide scalable, consistent job-specific retraining. It's this infrastructure that's missing. In China, India and other places, there's an infrastructure that government invests in so that there's a lot of people in a given location with a known skill level. We're trying to do that at the grass roots level. Our view is that if you can put work in China, you can put it in Johnstown."

Americans Work offers a different take on "retraining." Large, top-down retraining efforts focus on "least common denominator" skills like word processing or email. Americans Work will concentrate on the skills needed for specific, pledged jobs. Directed training provided in local centers will work with job applicants to get them trained on the specific technologies they'll need to know to do a certain job, decreasing time-to-value for the company, and increasing marketability for the applicant.

The Johnstown operation of Americans Work is expected to start in May with software and hardware technicians and product support workers. Organizers hope to grow the office to make it a significant employer in the city before launching Americans Work facilities at another location. Jobs are expected to meet or exceed the local median wage and will include health care benefits.

"Johnstown is a perfect example of a community being smart and looking to the future," CEO Holt said. "They've done a remarkable job of reinventing themselves and moving away from the traditional heavy industries and manufacturing. There is an educated labor force that is attractive to any employer."

About: Americans work is a volunteer organization that does not function as a for-profit business or a non-profit foundation. We are business people working through the internet and trying to connect US companies that need workers with communities that need jobs. Join us by visiting www.americanswork.com

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