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Bloggings On PERM Labor Certification

by Joel Stewart

Editor's note: Here are the latest entries from Joel Stewart's blog.

February 23, 2009

Beware the Project Manager!

The job of "Project Director" was very widespread and popular at one time. In the old DOT it was described with very vague, generic language, which enabled it to be used in many industries to describe a wide range of jobs. Consider the DOT version (which is now extinct):

Project Director: 189-117.030

(profess. & kin.) Alternate titles: project manager. Plans, directs, and coordinates activities of designated project to ensure that goals or objectives of project are accomplished within prescribed time frame and funding parameters: Reviews project proposal or plan to determine time frame, funding limitations, procedures for accomplishing project, staffing requirements, and allotment of available resources to various phases of project. Establishes work plan and staffing for each phase of project, and arranges for recruitment or assignment of project personnel. Confers with project staff to outline work plan and to assign duties, responsibilities, and scope of authority. Directs and coordinates activities of project personnel to ensure project progresses on schedule and within prescribed budget. Reviews status reports prepared by project personnel and modifies schedules or plans as required. Prepares project reports for management, client, or others. Confers with project personnel to provide technical advice and to resolve problems. May coordinate project activities with activities of government regulatory or other governmental agencies. See PROJECT ENGINEER (profess. & kin.) 019.167- 014 for engineering projects. GOE: 11.05.02 STRENGTH: S GED: R5 M5 L5 SVP: 8 DLU: 81

Note that the job of project manager describes a person who plans, directs and coordinates a project. Beyond that, the job is not limited to specific kinds of projects. As a result, the job could be used in any situation which required a manager to work with projects.

Project Manager was very popular with employers who filed petitions for temporary workers or for permanent labor certification. It was described as a "profession" in the DOT (note the phrase (profess. & kin.)  above. This means "professional and kind." Since Project Manager was designated as a professional, it could be used for specialty occupations and to qualify for the old third preference. How many employers or practitioners remember when the third preference was the preferred category for employment based applicants and the sixth preference was the slower category for persons who did not qualify as professionals! Under the current preference scheme, the third preference is the slow category, and the second preference is faster.

Now, let's see what happened to "Project Manager" in 2005, when PERM was launched, and the Department of Labor officially abandoned the DOT and adopted the SOC as presented on O*Net as the official repository of occupational job descriptions.

If you put the words "project manager" in the SOC box on the O*Net page (using this link: )  you will find numerous jobs with similar titles, but none with the same job functions. The closest match might be "General and Operations Managers" (SOC 11-1021), but the difference between this manager and the project manager is that the current title emphasizes management and the old title emphasizes the project. In other words, if the job is not true management, then the General and Operations Manager cannot be used as a catch-all for diverse professional positions, as project manager was used in the past.

The page also presents an option to "crosswalk" from the old Dictionary of Occupational Titles to the modernized SOC (Standard Occupational Classification). If you crosswalk the old DOT number 189-117-030 to the SOC, you will find "Managers, All Other," a job for which O*Net Data is not available. As there is no information on the O*Net page, you can not conclusively determine the Job Zone Level, Educational, Training or Experience Requirements, and the Job Duties. As you have the burden of proof to demonstrate to DHS that a petition qualifies for a preference category, it will be difficult to obtain approval of a second preference petition, or, conceivably, even a skilled worker!

Interestingly, the title "Project Manager" appears as an alternate title for "Engineering Managers" in the O*Net (11-9041), but if you look at the main job title and especially at the job functions of 11-9041, you will see that it is really an engineering job, "Plan or direct activities in such fields as architecture and engineering or research and research or development in this fields." As such, it cannot be used as a substitute for "Project Manager."

And so, the Project Manager has been quietly and discreetly removed from the list of available job opportunities for description of job functions and titles for temporary visas and/or labor certification.