Lets Solve Tech Ed Puzzle

A sustained effort will be required, one that lasts not years but decades.

Its no secret that a shift of it work overseas has resulted in the loss of U.S. jobs. Many people across a broad spectrum of economic interests and ideologies have no desire to see the domestic talent pool shrink to levels that threaten the future of both IT vendors and enterprise users in the United States. Andy Grove, the chairman of Intel, itself a major overseas job creator, recently warned that without real vision and decisive action, the U.S. software and services industry could go the way of the steel industry.

Grove and many others see education as the key. Recently, senior Bush administration officials launched the Advanced Education Technology Initiative

in hopes of addressing the education issue. Convened under the aegis of the White House Science and Technology Council, the initiative will focus on fostering the development and deployment of advanced technologies in education and training in the United States and boosting the competitiveness of the U.S. work force.

"We will not achieve the benefits of these technologies within our current organizational and process paradigm in education and training," said Philip Bond, undersecretary of commerce for technology, while addressing the National School Boards Associations Technology and Learning Conference recently. "Exploiting the full potential of these advanced technologies is likely to require fundamental rather than incremental reforms—a change in the business model of our learning enterprise."

Were all for training Americans to fill the best jobs available in the information economy. However, we hope Bond understands just how much fundamental change will be required to ensure American workers have the technical prowess that will enable them to compete with their global counterparts.

The government has long been in the habit of throwing federal money at the technology education problem. During the Clinton administration, earmarking millions of dollars for tech ed was the cost of raising the H-1B visa quota. That money, poorly targeted, has done little to sharpen the U.S. competitive edge.

As we urged during the Clinton years, a sustained effort will be required, one that lasts not years but decades. It must go hand in hand with educational initiatives such as the No Child Left Behind Act. And we must see to it that U.S. taxpayer money is encouraging and underwriting U.S. engineering students. Federal dollars should also support continuing education in tomorrows—not yesterdays—skills.

At the recent Gartner symposium, Intel CEO Craig Barrett said, "We should staple a green card to the diplomas of foreign students." Hes right. Instead of educating foreign students, often at taxpayer expense, then sending them away, we should welcome them as permanent residents. Visionaries like Grove and Barrett see the writing on the wall. We should listen to them before it is too late.

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