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'Digital Divide' Widening in Silicon Valley

May 18, 1999|Charles Piller

A widening gap between Silicon Valley's fast-growing demand for qualified employees and locally available high-tech workers costs companies up to $4 billion annually in recruitment costs and constrained growth, according to a report to be released today. About one-third of the employees needed annually are either hired from outside the area or the jobs go unfilled, according to the report by San Jose-based Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, a policy research group. A survey of area high school students included in the report found that few show interest in high-tech careers, and fewer still understand the importance of studying mathematics to develop skills needed to succeed in high-tech industries. The findings underscore concerns about the "digital divide" separating a high-flying elite from the rest of the area's residents, many of whom are members of racial minorities. "A large segment of our population is either excluded or feels excluded from these opportunities," said Ruben Barrales, chief executive of Joint Venture.

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