"Inslee, school districts warn of high-tech job crises"

"Washington will face a job crisis unless schools start teaching technological skills earlier in their curriculum, according to Rep. Jay Inslee. It's going to be the great bombshell that will explode on this country, Inslee said. Inslee met Sept.1 with vocational school administrators from districts comprising the West Sound Consortium. They discussed how Washington schools can increase the number of students leaving high school with high-tech skills. Consortium members, citing a study by the American Electronics Association, said the state and nation are falling behind the demand for high-tech workers. Although the number of high-tech jobs grew 21 percent between 1990 and 1998 in the U.S., the number of high-tech degrees dropped five percent. The study said Washington schools should hope to supply at least technical workers a year by 2008 to keep up with the number of jobs available. Inslee said one of the reasons for the shortage of skilled techies is that high schools have been preparing students for college, not high-tech jobs available after high school or through vocational schools. We have had a really skewed definition of what success is. In schools, we have thought that if you go on to college, you're a success, Inslee said. To me, that's warped. There are a lot of ways of being successful. Funding was cited as a major obstacle blocking technology education. Jim Adamson, an Olympic High School teacher who has helped several students secure high-paying technological jobs right out of high school, said he is overworked and underfunded trying to keep up with the latest technology. Adamson said many of the programs he teaches are updated every year and he does not have time to learn them or the money to get them for his classes. There all these new programs, but I can't teach them because I'm teaching summer classes, Adamson said. He also said that students need to be exposed to computer technologies earlier. Since students can't start taking his classes until high school, administrators suggested students start taking technology classes as early as seventh grade and that districts curb elective requirements to make room for computer classes. Administrators were unanimous in asking the federal government for more money. WIth levy failures and tighter budgets, administrators said they cannot do even what they want to do. They cited the federal Karl Perkins Grant program, which gives money to schools, but said it is only a small part of what is needed to update computer labs and programs. Inslee said there are two education-funding camps in Congress: one wants to give parents vouchers so students can go to private schools, while the other wants to give more money to public districts. They talk about school choice and then they force vouchers down their throats, Inslee said. Inslee also said he is trying to pass a bill to pay the college loans of any graduate who teaches for five years after college. Math and education teachers would have to spend just three years in the classroom to pay back their loans, he said. "

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