BY NOW IT'S known coast to coast: Virginia has at least 30,000 tech job openings that are unfilled, the majority in this region. So why, if firms are that short, has a special state study commission recommended that high school and college students receive tuition assistance, and that high-tech businesses that hire them as interns be eligible for state tax breaks? Won't supply and demand relationships click in here, drawing more young people into tech studies? And won't desperately seeking firms hire without state money thrown in?
The "gap" between job vacancies and available workers is complicated. Community-college graduates with technical specialties could fill many of the vacant jobs, the commission notes, but many employers aren't interested in hiring them. That makes the gap wider. Federal agencies and some technology companies are feeding the "shortage" with policies that flatly demand more education and experience. The commission found, however, that federal government agencies in particular often insist -- routinely and needlessly -- that technology contractors use only four-year college graduates on their projects.
That's hardly a good reason to reward companies for helping their own cause by hiring -- and then training -- some people with less experience for certain jobs. In addition, the commission noted that many companies tend to ignore the thousands of tech-skilled members of the military in Virginia who leave the service every year.
Wisely, Gov. Gilmore has been cautious in his acceptance of the commission's financial-incentive recommendations. He hasn't said how much aid might go to businesses or students. Perhaps some interim incentives would spur firms to reach out, hire and train more people who up to now have been barred as not qualified enough. But in the long run, Virginia's fertile fields for tech industry ought to be enough for market forces to address the problem.