Jamie Giovanetto has made layoffs -- preparing for and handling them -- an area of expertise.
In classes, he helps his students confront their concerns with advice on how to avoid the job-cutting ax as well as how to prepare for it.
And he now has a map where he can point to areas in the U.S. where job anxiety, particularly from offshore competition, are likely to be the greatest over the next several years.
The Brookings Institution last week released a study that lists areas in the U.S. where offshoring has hit IT and back-office jobs the hardest. The anticipated effect of offshoring on metropolitan areas through 2015 has been mapped as well, and Giovanetto held up the map at the start of his class at IBM's Share conference in Tampa last week to illustrate one simple point.
"The only state that doesn't have a metro area affected by offshoring is Wyoming," said Giovanetto, who faced a layoff of his own and today is an independent IBM consultant. He teaches professional development classes as an avocation at the Share conferences.
Just attending Giovanetto's class can make you feel uncomfortable, because it involves thinking about something most people would rather not imagine. But concerns about job security can pop up in any forum.
For instance, in a class on telework, a woman asked whether a company's decision to allow teleworking also makes it more comfortable with using remote workers and offshoring. "We are just afraid of that," she said.
In interviews, several people who had attended Giovanetto's class offered a range of views about current trends.
Paul Poppell, who manages enterprise operations and is also an MVS mainframe programmer, said automation is more of a threat than offshoring.
"Every enhancement from IBM has reduced the skill set of my particularly specialty," Poppell said. "There has not been an enhancement out of that product set that has increased the complexity or the skill set required to install that operating system." He works at an educational institution he didn't want identified.
Although Poppell said he believes IT jobs may be increasing overall, the skill sets are shifting, and not to the benefit of MVS programmers. "Unfortunately, it's one of those things like making horse collars -- the good ones are going to do well; the bad ones are going to fall off the face of the Earth," he said.
Jane Shipman, who works on a mainframe computer at a large business, said the market has changed for IT workers and the days of easily finding a new job are gone. "I think we're experiencing what other professions have experienced for a while, and we don't like it any more than they do," she said.
But Shipman sees positive things in her work environment. The company hasn't outsourced its data center, because it believes that "your own people are best situated to control your cost." And she also believes that her mainframe skills give her an edge in this market. The mainframe is "not going away, and it's not the hot thing that people are training on," she said. She also sees the retirement of many longtime mainframe workers creating a skills shortage.
Ken Williams, who works in a test environment at a large financial services firm, said offshoring was a worry for several years but is less so now.
"Everybody was afraid it was going to take jobs," he said. "In my environment, it's thought about much more positively at this point."
Williams said offshore developers are supplementing work, and their efforts are increasing his workload. It has also put demand on environments around the clock. "It's not replacing anybody; it's increasing our capacity," he said.