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Technology Sector Remains Upbeat About Job Growth
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Technology Sector Remains Upbeat About Job Growth
Technology Sector Remains Upbeat About Job Growth
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Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Im Steve Inskeep.


And Im Madeleine Brand. Good morning.

The industry thats had a huge role in the booms and the busts in our economy in recent years is expected to play another major role this decade. Technology.

In our series, new jobs for a new decade, were looking into job of the future. In a moment, how a video game company is faring. First, though, NPRs Wendy Kauffman reports on what part technology will play as the economy rebounds.

WENDY KAUFMAN: Tech jobs are everywhere. Not just at companies like Google and Microsoft, but also at places like hospitals, banks, insurance companies and retailers. If they manage lots of data they need technology workers and many of the new jobs will come from them. Others will come from brand new companies. Companies like...

Mr. JOE AIKEN (SynapticMash): SynapticMash.

KAUFMAN: The firms Joe Aiken explains the unusual name.

Mr. AIKEN: It is actually the whole concept of synapses in the brain where learning happens and mashing up of different technologies.

KAUFMAN: Mashing and merging technologies with education is a relatively new idea and its creating new jobs. This start up, for example, creates software that helps educators see where kids are struggling in the classroom and what teaching strategies make a difference. Ryan Vanderpol, a senior software engineer here, says it's not often that you get to do something useful and have fun doing it.

Mr. RYAN VANDERPOL (Senior Software Engineer): It's enjoyable. I work with a lot of really cool people all the time, and get to do a lot of different things and that's why I'm here.

KAUFMAN: The company which now has about 30 employees hopes to expand to about 150 over the next few years. Indeed, says Joe Aiken, they are hiring right now.

Mr. AIKEN: Were looking for database administrator, were looking for people highly skilled in CSS, which is a technology that supports Web site development; we are looking for high-end programmers.

Professor ED LAZOWSKA (Bill & Melinda Gates Chair, Department of Computer Science, University of Washington): Lets talk about what this nation should be investing in.

KAUFMAN: Ed Lazowska, holds the Bill and Melinda Gates chair in computer science at the University of Washington.

Prof. LAZOWSKA: What this nation should be investing in is jobs that create other jobs, and that is what technology jobs do.

KAUFMAN: For starters even the tech jobs that dont require a four year college degree pay rather well, and the more workers make the more they are likely to spend. And spending creates other jobs. But perhaps more importantly many technology jobs drive innovation. Some create new industries or different approaches to old ones. Well have novel drugs will emerge because of the Human Genome Project. And music and movies are now in our hands because of mobile technology. Well have better transportation planning too, says Ed Lazowska.

Prof. LAZOWSKA: For example, getting information through your smart phone about where the transit is instead you having to look at the schedule and guess. It means routing transit vehicles around traffic congestions, so they dont spend all their time sitting on bridges or underpasses. Thats what we do.

KAUFMAN: But just how many new jobs are we talking about? The research and consulting firm IDC recently estimated about a million new technology-related jobs will be created in the next four to five years. Thats about 10 percent more than we have now.

Ms. PAMELA PASSMAN (Corporate Vice President, Microsoft): Some of those numbers may seem small.

KAUFMAN: But Pamela Passman, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, says you have to look at the big picture.

Ms. PASSMAN: Across most sectors of the economy, we see the number of jobs shrinking. We see jobs in the IT sector growing - not as much as they grew in past years - but there still is growth.

KAUFMAN: But she and many others believe that for technology-based industries to really blossom, some public policies need to change. They advocate more generous tax credits for firms doing research and development, and they want to see more emphasis on science and math education. Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, suggests we think back to what worked well in the 1990s.

Mr. ROB ATKINSON (President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation): One of the nice things about the 90s was we had this virtuous cycle, if you will. We had investment related innovation, which related to more demand; more people wanted to go in the field, we had more investment. We need to get back to that.

KAUFMAN: He worries that if we dont, the U.S. won't create enough new technology jobs or technology companies. And that could mean the U.S. economy wont get the burst of innovation and growth it needs.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, Seattle.

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