EDITORIAL - Get Back, Jo Jo

There'll be a glut of programmers looking for work. All the good IT jobs are taken.You'll be just another code monkey churning C++ in the bowels of some corporation. I guessthis is where I'm supposed to say April Fool's, because only a fool would believe thesestatements. The fact is, each year, tens of thousands of exciting and well-paying IT jobsgo unfilled across the United States.

Pennsylvania, like many other states, is experiencing what its governor, Tom Ridge,calls a "brain drain." It seems the best and brightest students are leaving theKeystone State for employment in more traditional high-tech areas, such as Silicon Valley,Austin and Boston. In 1999 alone more than 37 percent of jobs created in Pennsylvania weretechnology related, providing about 10,000 positions, with only 1,500 college graduateswilling to remain to fill them.

Recently Unisys, headquartered just outside Philadelphia in Blue Bell, along with theCommonwealth of Pennsylvania, decided to, once again, step up to meet the challenge. LarryWeinbach, a firm advocate of contributing to the region's growth, announced with Secretaryof the Department of Community and Economic Development, Sam McCullough, that Unisys wouldbe the first company to partner with Pennsylvania, committing to the SciTech Scholarsprogram that will help keep the home-grown talent at home.

According to Weinbach there are over 340,000 jobs not filled in the informationtechnology industry nationwide. Unfortunately, as the market-need increases, the abilityto provide the people to meet the need is shrinking. Secretary McCullough maintains thatthis is not a problem unique to Pennsylvania and that the United States as a whole issusceptible to this drain, as other nations try to tap into its technology literategraduates.

When fully implemented, McCullough says the SciTech program will provide assistance toabout 14,500 students. According to McCullough the future of Pennsylvania is its high-techindustry; however, "the growth of the state's technology employers tends to behindered by a lack of available technology workers." The program hopes to help slowthe "migration of these graduates." Unisys itself plans on filling 30 percent to35 percent of its 1999 openings with graduates from the region.

Weinbach and McCullough concur that, until recently, Pennsylvania did not have areputation for being a technology state, and Weinbach admits that Unisys's own historycontributed to this reputation. Today Unisys finds itself a company people want to workfor. Along with programs like tax incentives and this internship, Pennsylvania has jumpedin one year from 31st to fourth place in the Progress and Freedom Foundation's"Digital State Report," prompting Secretary McCullough to now refer toPennsylvania as the "State of Technology."

The proposed SciTech Scholars program will provide up to $3,000 a year, for up to threeyears to full-time Pennsylvania students earning a bachelor's degree in select scientificand technological fields of study. To qualify for the scholarship, students must maintainat least a 3.0 GPA, complete an internship with a technology-intensive Pennsylvaniacompany, and work in Pennsylvania for one year for each year of scholarship assistance.

Funds for the program will come from the state's normal operating budget. When askedwhat the cost to Unisys was, Weinbach explained, "I don't view this as a cost. We'remaking an investment." With a 20 percent turnover rate for the computing industry andUnisys planning on hiring 6,500 people this year, Weinbach welcomes the opportunity tobring talent in on a trial-by-fire basis, a trial for both Unisys and the intern. Weinbachexplains how the industry has changed from being about building the latest hot boxes toacquiring "knowledge capital," or the people for implementing and managing thistechnology, in order to take Unisys and Pennsylvania to the next stage of development.

Mike Woycheck, a Penn State Senior and an intern at Unisys, told me that he and hiscolleagues have or will receive six-to-twelve job offers from around, and even outside of,the U.S. before they complete their senior year. Six-to-twelve offers. I didn't havesix-to-twelve interviews when I graduated with an Liberal Arts degree. So, ahistorically agricultural state like Pennsylvania has its work cut out to attract and keepthe high-tech grads.

One thing is clear, however, today not only have "You Got a Friend inPennsylvania," but more than likely, you've got a job waiting there as well.