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THE CUTTING EDGE: FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY

Amid Worker Shortage, High-Tech Firm Training High Schoolers

May 29, 2000|From Associated Press

GOLDEN, Colo. — About 200 Jefferson County High School students could graduate in two years and land jobs earning an average of $35,000 a year with companies using Cisco Systems Inc. products.

Starting this fall, 240 students at seven high schools will take classes toward certification in designing, building and maintaining Cisco computer networks.

When they graduate, the students will have the same skills that community college graduates are parlaying into annual starting salaries of $40,000 and $50,000.

The program is designed to help ease a shortage of high-tech workers in Colorado.

The shortage is so serious that some high-tech firms would "hire a 15-year-old--that's the scary part," said Wayne Caruolo, an associate vice president of technology for Red Rocks Community College, one of the program sponsors.

"We have to make sure that they have the maturity to be successful, make sure these kids understand there's a lot at stake in the future."

Over the next decade, the number of unfilled high-tech jobs in Colorado will jump from 7,000 to 30,000, said Phil Burgess, a communications vice president at US West Inc.

He said the telecommunications firm has 800 high-tech openings on any given day that cannot be filled because of the worker shortage.

"We look for performance and competence. If they're 18 years old and have the skills, sure we'd hire them," he said.

The education program is a partnership of Cisco, a San Jose-based Internet network equipment provider; Jefferson County Public School District; and Red Rocks. Partial financing came from a grant from the Colorado Institute of Technology.

The classes will be offered at Columbine, Alameda, Aravada, Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Evergreen and Conifer high schools. Eight teachers are being trained to teach the first two courses.

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