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Aside from the (no news!) disparity between starting salaries for [industry] computer engineers and starting salaries for GS-5/7 computer specialists, your article "Critics: Clinton training plan falls short" [FCW, Jan. 19] makes some good points.

* Federal money alone won't resolve the issue, although elected officials need to demonstrate that they can fix things.

* Private-sector jobs are indeed attracting government technology workers to leave the public sector. Portable retirement plans make for easy departures; many will later apply their particular expertise as contractor consultants.

* The care and feeding of information systems is incredibly expensive. Cultivating so many new and improved systems, likewise, demands resources such as money, people and time, which are many times unavailable. Continued requirements "triage" will be necessary to keep needs and resources within sight of each other.

But if, for example, computer engineers are what you actually want, you have to grow them; you can't just budget for them. From the time they are born, read to your kids, talk to them, sing them songs, encourage them to explore words, music, speaking in multiple languages.

If you don't have kids yourself, encourage someone else's. Brains are pretty much set in concrete by the time kids hit school; help create the most dynamic thinking machines possible while you can. After that, it gets harder. Support Big Brother/Big Sister organizations and encourage your associates to do the same. Take any opportunity you can to help kids learn to think and apply their thinking; scouts, clubs [and] other bridging associations can be initiated or supported by you and your work association. Many schools are trying hard to establish computer facilities, but often expertise is in short supply. If you have technical smarts (and even a few hours a month) to offer, contact a neighborhood school and see if you can help in some small way.

New worlds require new ways of thinking and working. That comes with a price tag, but it doesn't come overnight.

Tom Farnsworth

Columbus, Ohio

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