Fewer computer internships available as jobs migrate to Asia, trade group says

Fewer young people entering IT field facing exodus by baby boomers

July 27, 2005|By Jon Van | Jon Van,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Students seeking summer internships in information technology had slimmer pickings this year in part because entry-level jobs in the field have migrated to Asia, according to a trade association.

A Web poll taken by the Computing Technology Industry Association, based in Oakbrook, Ill., found that among organizations that offered IT internships to students in the past, 12 percent aren't doing so this year.

This trend comes at a time when the computer industry is working to interest young people in information technology as a career. Many of today's IT workers are baby boomers who will be retiring during the next decade, said Gretchen Koch, CompTIA skills development group director.

The association works with schools, community colleges and technology firms to promote IT as a career choice, she said.

AT&T Corp., for example, is sponsoring weeklong sessions of "AT&T Camp Infinity" at Loyal University in Chicago and at the College of DuPage. These camps will give 80 young women ages 15 to 17 experience in designing Web sites and taking field trips to promote career opportunities in science and technology.

Summer internships are a major component of industries' efforts to get more talent into the IT work force. Koch attributed the decline in internships to offshore competition.

"A lot of jobs kids might get as internships have been offshored or automated," she said.

There are still opportunities, Koch said, especially in jobs that require a physical presence with customers, such as working at retail stores like Best Buy. While internships are down, there are some bright spots, Koch said.

Students should not be discouraged by the changing forces in technology -- but they must prepare for it, said Stephen Carr, associate dean of undergraduate engineering at Northwestern University.

Carr requires that all NU engineering seniors read The World is Flat, a book by Thomas L. Friedman that describes how technology enables talented people in Asia and elsewhere to do jobs that once were performed in North America.

Northwestern anticipated several years ago that jobs would go global, Carr said, and revised its engineering curriculum to prepare students.

"If you just give students engineering skills, they can get a job and be employed for five years or so, but then they may be vulnerable," he said. "What students need is engineering intellect -- a way of thinking, habits of the mind -- things that allow them to drive their own career."

Two-thirds of Northwestern's engineering graduates this year had jobs lined up and another 30 percent went on to further study. Just 5 percent were still looking for work on graduation.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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