Washington opens high-tech institute

University of Washington, Tacoma

The new Institute of Technology at the University of Washington, Tacoma

is one of the linchpins in the state's attempt to fashion a pool of homegrown

talent to meet future demand for high-tech workers.

Despite the influence of Microsoft Corp. in Redmond, Wash., and the

high caliber of the computer and software departments at the university's

Seattle campus, the rest of the state is relatively starved for high-tech

education. That's reflected in the fact that thousands of people have come

from outside the state to meet Washington's need for highly educated employees.

Gov. Gary Locke has made expansion of high-tech education a focus of

his administration, and he announced a "Strategy for the Innovation Economy"

this summer as a way to attract high-tech businesses to Washington. A guaranteed

supply of educated workers is one of the prerequisites to attract such businesses.

The state's lawmakers obviously agree with Locke. The Tacoma campus

institute, officially launched Oct. 24, was the only higher education initiative

to be funded by the legislature during the past year. It was established

with just more than $5 million in state funds, along with nearly $4 million

from local government and private donors.

"We supported this because Washington is low down the scale in its degree-granting

capacity for computer science and engineering degrees," said Lew McMurran,

director of public and government affairs for the WSA, formerly known as

the Washington Software Alliance. "We desire to see the technology business

expanding across the state and to see its benefits spread. To do that, we

need a lot of technically skilled people with computer degrees."

The institute opened with a class of 170 students working toward bachelor's

degrees, with the first batch expected to graduate beginning in 2003. Next

year, the institute plans to offer a professional master's degree, with

other degree and certificate programs expected to be added later.

Despite all of this activity, McMurran said it's still "small change"

compared to what some other states are doing to attract high-tech businesses,

but it is necessary if Washington is to remain competitive with them.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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