Since giving birth to the digital revolution, the United States has led the way. American IT workers, innovators and entrepreneurs have blazed new technological trails at an unprecedented pace—bringing tremendous wealth to the U.S. economy, creating new industries and transforming existing ones, and offering new job opportunities for American workers. This unparalleled record of accomplishment was made possible by the worlds best IT work force.
Last year, IT employment in the United States fell for the first time, leaving thousands of highly skilled American IT workers jobless. This decline was caused by several factors, some domestic—such as the dot-com bust, Sept. 11 and a reduction in company IT spending—and some international, as nations began to capitalize on investments in developing an IT work force and infrastructure and on their comparatively lower wages. I am confident that many of the domestic factors will soon pass. However, global competition for high-skill jobs is here to stay.
America must never vie to see who can pay workers the least. Instead, we must find ways to win on our own terms—offering IT innovation, value and excellence that command the wages needed to maintain our living standard. Were going to have to be faster, better, more productive, more business-focused, more creative and more innovative. Our IT professionals must stay at the forefront of IT in technology and in its applications to business and be ready for the new frontiers of IT in biotechnology and nanotechnology.
Our ability to acquire skills quickly for new opportunities will be important. This includes quickly understanding employers changing needs and increasing awareness of the education and training available to meet these needs. The United States has an IT education and training infrastructure that is rich and diverse. A wide range of programs is available for IT workers who want to expand or deepen their skills, move into new IT disciplines or prepare for career advancement. However, this highly complex education and training landscape can be challenging to navigate.
The Commerce Departments recent Report to Congress, “Education and Training for the Information Technology Workforce” (www.technology.gov/reports. htm) discusses the strengths of IT education and training models and providers.
The U.S. IT education infrastructure offers a competitive asset for our IT workers, but we must make it more effective. This will require a dialogue among IT workers, employers, education and training providers, and government to help. I urge these stakeholders to open up this dialogue, with the aim of preparing U.S. IT workers for the challenges ahead.