Commission seeks answers to IT worker shortage

Providing technology training that prepares workers for new jobs in information technology may be one way to ease the growing shortage of IT workers, said the director of a federal commission created to help find solutions to the worker shortage.

"We're going to be looking at how we can get non-information technology people into information technology," said Hans Meeder, newly named executive director of the 17-member 21st Century Workforce Commission.

The commission, which was created by Congress and will work with the Labor Department, is searching for solutions to a shortage of programmers, systems analysts, computer scientists and other IT specialists. Government and industry organizations estimate that as many as 400,000 IT jobs are unfilled in the United States.

Meeder said the commission plans to begin by comparing "skill sets" needed by IT workers with skills required of workers in other fields. The commission then will be able to identify the kinds of training workers in other fields would need to move into IT.

A next step would be to identify "untapped human resources"—people who could be trained for IT jobs to ease the shortage, Meeder said. The commission hopes its work will help potential employees as well the employers who need them, Meeder said. "Looking at the 'digital divide,' we're not just concerned about access to technology but also participation" in the fast-growing information economy, he said.

Digital divide is a term used to describe the barrier between Americans in many low-income and isolated communities and access to the high-tech mainstream.

As an alternate solution, some members of the commission favor increasing the number of foreign workers admitted to the United States to take IT jobs.

The commission is required to submit legislative and administrative policy recommendations to Congress and the president by May 16.

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