As state legislators in cash-strapped Virginia wrangle over next year's budget, a prominent force for the Washington area's technology workers may become a victim of cost-cutting.
The Northern Virginia Regional Partnership, a five-year-old effort to help people move into technology careers, is in danger of receiving little or no money to continue into 2003.
"I don't want to slam the door shut," said David Hunn, its executive director. "But I am very pessimistic right now."
The program has ushered 9,000 adults through low-cost courses in computer programming, networking and other technical specialties. Its two-week summer technology camp at local community colleges has attracted 2,600 middle-school students.
Its effort to offer Sallie Mae loans to people enrolled in technology courses even if they don't pursue a college degree is being examined by officials in New York and other states.
Experts familiar with the plan to cut NVRP's funding say the loss would be great.
"It has been the cornerstone of what we have attempted to do for the last five years in bringing workers into the technology workforce," said Michael Daniels, a vice president at Science Applications International Corp. in McLean and the NVRP's vice chairman. "If we don't have this kind of thing, we're not going to have one of the primary avenues of bringing tech workers up to speed."
Others said no government or private industry effort would take up the slack if the regional partnership evaporates.
"It's going to have a huge impact because no other training initiative replicates what they do," said Susan Baker, vice president for professional development at the Northern Virginia Technology Council. "It will have a larger impact than people realize."
Doug Koelemay, a lobbyist in touch with Northern Virginia issues, said the program likely suffers from a perception that there is too much overlap in efforts to help workers. But, Koelemay said, cutting funds for NVRP would be tantamount to "short sheet[ing] the future."