- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2000

A new effort to fill the technology worker shortage begins this month as the Greater Washington Board of Trade weighs in with a program to attract employees from other areas of the country.
Greater Washington TechMatch, as the new effort is called, in some ways mimics a program the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority undertook a year ago. Fairfax's effort used an advertising campaign combined with visits to job fairs in targeted areas to lure workers with the right skills.
Like the Fairfax effort, the new program targets technology-rich areas nationwide. Unlike Fairfax, it will put its emphasis on the Washington area as a whole.
Recent estimates put the shortage of technology workers between 23,000 and 30,000 in Virginia alone.
Many existing programs trying to fill the need for more workers revolve around training, but that takes time particularly when it comes to filling the highest-level technology jobs.
"This is going after skilled tech workers," said Paul Rothenberg, co-chairman of TechMatch and managing principal for business development at the McCormick Group in Arlington.
For companies trying to fill vacancies, the new program is a highly accessible opportunity to reach out beyond the Washington area.
William D. Lecos, senior vice president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said the program should be particularly attractive to emerging companies that do not have the resources to court workers outside the area on their own.
It costs an average of $9,000 to recruit a worker without the program, Mr. Lecos said.
Companies that want to join the effort will pay $2,500, $7,500 or $15,000 with the amount of their investment determining the level of service companies get.
Although TechMatch offers advantages to smaller players, the companies leading the way are dominated by players on the other side of the spectrum.
Six companies joined together for a pilot program last year, teaming up at job fairs to promote themselves and the region as a whole. America Online, Arthur Andersen, DynCorp, EDS, Mitretek and Network Systems formed the pilot program. The goal now will be to attract additional partners, Mr. Lecos said.
The program will consist of four elements: job fairs, a Web site targeting college students at an address yet to be determined, an advertising campaign and help with relocating employees.
Real estate firm Long & Foster is working with the program, providing counseling services to employees thinking about moving to the Washington area. Counselors help provide information that could tilt the balance in favor of a move, including facts about different industries for spouses or child care options.
TechMatch also plans to line up discount rooms to help pay the cost of bring prospective hires to the area.
Irv Towson, recruiting manager for EDS, a Herndon information services company, said the pilot program surprises some job seekers who are accustomed to seeing individual companies trolling for employees.
But the cooperative effort between the companies seemed to work, although Board of Trade officials could not say whether the 2,000 resumes collected translated to any hires.
Employees who encountered the group also learned some things they did not know about the Washington area.
"I think this area has a long record of creating tech workers and a long history of tech companies, but I think people are unaware of that in other cities," Mr. Towson said.
TechMatch, along with the Fairfax County effort, should help to change that.
If the Fairfax effort is any indication, and it should be, TechMatch is an idea that should at least drum up greater interest in the region. County development officials collected 679 resumes in the fall. The Northern Virginia Regional Partnership, which is concentrating on finding employees to fill the job shortage, is posting the resumes on its Web site (www.nvrp.org).
Mr. Lecos said it is clear that the long-term solution to the shortage is to encourage workers to get technology training and teach high school students about the advantages and opportunities that come with a career in the field.
The program is seen as an effort that will help fill needs in the next two to three years, as opposed to longer-term efforts likely to provide a more lasting solution about 10 years from now.
"In the short term, we think this will be an effective strategy to make a dent," Mr. Lecos said.
Bernard Dagenais, business editor of The Washington Times, can be reached to 202/636-3173.

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