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Job-Training Initiative Aims To Fill High-Tech Slots

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Citing a severe shortage of workers qualified for information-technology jobs, the Department of Education, along with other federal agencies and private companies, announced a collaboration last week to recruit and train more workers and students to fill the jobs.

Leaders of the federal agencies and businesses pointed to a new Department of Commerce report that addresses the shortage and calls for more recruitment and training in technology-related careers.

For More Information

The report is free from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Technology Policy, 14th Street and Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20230; (202) 482-3037.

The Information Technology Association of America estimates that 190,000 information-technology jobs are currently unfilled because of a lack of qualified workers, and that number is expected to grow in the future. Another 95,000 such jobs will open up each year through 2005, according to the Arlington, Va.-based trade association.

The jobs involve working with computer-based information systems in positions such as software developer, systems analyst, and computer programmer.

"These changes will not only affect a few elite engineers and scientists with Ph.D's, but a large part of our labor force," Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in a written statement.

Four-year college programs are producing only a small percentage of the workers needed, according to the Commerce Department report, which also promotes several of President Clinton's initiatives, including new national tests in math and science, school-to-work programs, and the Hope Scholarship program.

To do its part, the Education Department pledged to help identify the best job-training programs for schools and businesses to emulate, Mr. Riley said.

Cisco Systems Initiative

In a related effort, Cisco Systems Inc., a San Jose, Calif.-based computer-hardware and -software manufacturer, has launched an initiative to prepare students for high-technology jobs.

The company recently invested $18 million in a four-semester curriculum, equipment, and other resources to train more than 1,000 students in 57 schools beginning this year, with plans to expand the program in the future.

Cisco expects that many of those students will be able to get high-tech jobs after completing the two-year program either in high school, technical school, or community college.

Cisco executives joined Democratic senators last week at a conference that brought demonstrations of cutting-edge educational technology to Capitol Hill.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif, called business involvement in career training "a win-win scenario for our students and corporate America."

Several Democrats used the conference to push for more school technology funding. The House appropriations bill for fiscal 1998 would increase funding for the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund to $425 million, up from $200 million in 1997. The Senate's bill would fund technology under an amendment that would turn most federal K-12 education funding into block grants. ("Block Grant Compromise Put Forward," Oct. 1, 1997)

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