Employed (But Not in His Field)

In February of last year, you may recall, President Barack Obama had a widely publicized conversation with Jennifer Wedel, the wife of engineer Darin Wedel who had been laid off by Texas Instruments (TI) several years before. During an online town meeting, Mrs. Wedel famously asked, “Why does the government continue to extend the H-1B visas when there are tons of Americans just like my husband with no job?” 

The plainly puzzled president replied, “the word we’re getting is that somebody like this should be getting work right away,” and asked her to forward Mr. Wedel’s resume to the White House.

“The word we’re getting is that somebody like this should be getting work right away.” —President Barack Obama

Even with presumed high-level help, however, Mr. Wedel, who holds a patent and had a decade of experience in microchip engineering at the time of his wife’s presidential contretemps, did not get a job “right away.” Some offers arrived after the publicity, but he could not accept them because family reasons prevent him from leaving his home area of Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas.

Months later, though, Mr. Wedel “found new work,” reports Patrick Thibodeau in . “He has been employed for about a year as a quality engineer for a large eye care/pharma company.”

Significantly, the new job is “apparently not electrical engineering”—Wedel’s field of expertise—”but at least it is using the quality assurance skills he had used at TI,” notes Norman Matloff of the University of California-Davis. Perhaps, Matloff suggests, Wedel need not have been laid off at all. “The central point, in my view, … is that Dallas-area tech employers such as TI [have] been hiring H-1Bs for work that Wedel could do. … I am sure that TI has hired a number of H-1Bs for jobs, in Dallas, that Wedel could have done well.” Those guestworkers, however, are very likely younger, less experienced, and therefore less costly to employ than Mr. Wedel.

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