Pocket protectors were nowhere to be seen at the Microsoft Skills 2000 job expo yesterday in Baltimore. With about 200 job openings here, and 1,700 from Pittsburgh to Richmond, Va., in Microsoft-related information technology, event organizers stressed that applicants don't have to be an Urkel-like nerd to get the job.
Anne Gordon, a program manager at Microsoft, said the company wants to get people excited about information technology and erase industry stereotypes and myths.
"Most people think they have to be techno-geeks to be in this industry," Gordon said. "There are so many new jobs with the World Wide Web, graphics and others. We don't all sit behind a computer, and nobody is too old, too young or too dumb."
She said the career expo is for high-tech companies, not Microsoft itself.
Gordon added that Microsoft has a training division, called Authorized Technical Educational Centers, that teaches employees and recruits how to use Microsoft's products within information technology and prepares them for the certification examinations.
Although applicants don't need a computer background, Jean Pak, who graduated last year from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania, is getting her client server programming degree from the Computer Learning Center in Laurel.
"Since I'm still going to school, I'm looking for an internship and future contacts," said Pak, 22, of College Park. "Some people gave me their cards, and I'm supposed to call them for interviews."
However, fellow Computer Learning Center student Nathan Musch wasn't having the same good luck at the expo.
"Evidently I'm not talking to the right people," said Musch, 25. "I'm hoping to get a lot of information."
Gordon said information technology encompasses a wide range of jobs, from system engineering to Web-design programs and technical support.
"We want to help our Microsoft certified solution providers fill open jobs," she said. "That's a benefit to Microsoft. They play a big role in Microsoft product placement."
Susan Parish, who was responsible for the four expos in the mid-Atlantic region, said Microsoft is willing to invest in training applicants because qualified people are needed to bring Microsoft technology to corporate customers.
Nancy Lewis, general manager of worldwide training certification, said 80,000 job openings are available in high-tech companies across the United States.
The jobs range from product specialists at the entry level with a salary average of $57,000 to the highest level of certification, Microsoft certified system engineers and software developers, with an average $74,000, Lewis said.
Although the numbers of certified professionals are growing, she said it isn't making a dent in job availability nationwide.
Gordon said that each business got six to 16 "hot leads" at the Washington expo last week.
The Baltimore expo at the Marriott Inner Harbor Hotel attracted about 400 prospective employees.
William Bottoms, mid-Atlantic regional manager for Management Information Consulting Inc. in Herndon, Va., said his company saw 150 prospective employees at the Washington expo.
"We're growing, we've gone from 55 employees a year and a half ago to 127," Bottoms said. "I don't think we have a limit for hiring. We can always find a place for the right candidate."
After yesterday's stop in Baltimore, the expo is going to New York City, Seattle, Phoenix, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Tenn., and Pittsburgh next week to attempt to fill more positions, Gordon said.
"We're concerned with this huge nationwide problem [job openings]," she said. "It holds businesses back if they don't have qualified people. We hope to cover more cities in the spring."
Pub Date: 10/18/97