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Engineer who got Obama’s attention still doesn’t have a job

This news story was published on April 28, 2012.
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By Anna M. Tinsley, McClatchy Newspapers –

FORT WORTH, Texas — More than two months after President Barack Obama asked for Darin Wedel’s resume, the phone is quiet, emails are no longer flooding in and the long-sought-after job interviews — which had begun to be scheduled — have petered out.

“Not even recruiting companies are calling anymore,” said Jennifer Wedel, the Fort Worth mother of two who chatted online this year with Obama about her out-of-work husband.

(PHOTO: Jennifer Wedel, center, with her 14-year-old daughter Erika Wedel, left, and her 7-year-old daughter Jada Wedel pose for portrait after Jennifer chatted with President Obama via Google from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, January 30, 2012.)

She says his job search has been hurt by a program to hire skilled foreign workers.

It’s been more than three years since Darin Wedel lost his job as a semiconductor engineer at Texas Instruments.

But the family had newfound hope after Jennifer Wedel participated in a Jan. 30 video chat with the president using the “Hangout” feature on Google+.

She asked the president why the government issues and extends H-1B visas to foreign workers when highly skilled Americans like her husband can’t find full-time work.

Obama, who said industry leaders have told him that the U.S. doesn’t have enough high-tech engineers to meet its needs, ended up asking for Darin Wedel’s resume.

For weeks after that, the family’s telephone rang constantly with calls from recruiters, headhunters, the news media, the Texas Workforce Commission, the White House, and out-of-town and out-of-state companies about possible job opportunities.

“I did feel we got our hopes up a little,” Jennifer Wedel said last week. “I mean, he’s the POTUS. But it seems not even the leader of our country can get (Darin) a job.”

Shortly after Jennifer Wedel talked with the president, the family was overwhelmed with attention.

Many calls came from out-of-state companies, as well as companies throughout Texas. But Darin’s work choices are limited to North Texas because of a custody agreement for one of his two daughters that prevents him from moving away.

Even so, the family thought a new job was right around the corner, possibly weeks away.

But the phone calls lessened, and now they have stopped.

Jennifer Wedel said the whole reason she participated in the chat was to draw attention to her concern about H-1B visas, which she believes are preventing workers like her husband from getting hired.

Supporters say this type of visa is needed to fill jobs that otherwise might be left vacant. Critics say that there’s no worker shortage, that countless highly skilled U.S. workers are unemployed and that companies are choosing to hire foreign workers at lower salaries through the program.

Jennifer Wedel’s conversation with the president prompted Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to send Obama a letter asking him to support a bill geared to reform the visa program.

“Your response to Ms. Wedel leads me to believe that you don’t understand the plight of many unemployed high-skilled Americans,” the letter said.

“Mr. Wedel’s situation is all too common. Thousands of qualified Americans remain out of work while companies are incentivized to import foreign workers. I’m concerned that you’re hearing only one side of the story — from businesses who claim that there are better and brighter people abroad.”

After Darin Wedel was laid off, Jennifer Wedel went to work at an insurance agency, hoping to help support the family while her husband looked for a job.

Now, more than two months after her chat with the president, she has changed her approach. She is turning to social media to try to find a higher-paying job for herself to better support her family.

“We are doing fine,” she said. “Unless reform comes to the H-1B program, I’m afraid we are in a place where ‘our’ family roles are changed.

“This is our permanent job (situation) now. It’s unfortunate, but we will overcome,” she said. “We didn’t do the interview with the president to get a job. We did it to get a voice for so many Americans who, like my husband, are in the very same situation.”

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3 Responses to Engineer who got Obama’s attention still doesn’t have a job

  1. Justin Reply Report comment

    April 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    “But Darin’s work choices are limited to North Texas because of a custody agreement for one of his two daughters that prevents him from moving away.”

    Do you think that maybe this is why Darin can’t get a job? Sometimes, to keep working in your chosen field, you HAVE to move (been there, done that).
    Move or change fields.

  2. Craig Eckhardt Reply Report comment

    April 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Just wait till it gets closer to election time. He will have a job then so he can be used as a poster child for an Obama cares campaign ad.

    • crapalap Reply Report comment

      April 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      He says that he is an Engineer then go engineer something. Build your own job. Getting an Engineering degree is not easy or cheap if it were everyone would have one. The current crop of college grads go to college get the paper and nothing more. Then they expect to have everything handed to them. Most of them are dim witted bums that talk their equally dimwitted parents into buying the degree. Here is a tip for all of you grads out there you actually have to know how to do what the paper says you can do. Being white or blonde or tall or short or black does not guarantee you a job. You actually have to know how to do the work.