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 Senators propose tax credit for IT training

WASHINGTON--Employers could have a portion of their IT training budgets paid for by Uncle Sam if a bipartisan group of senators has its way.

Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and five of his colleagues last week introduced a bill that would give employer tax credits of up to $1,500 per individual employee, with the limit increasing to $2,000 for small businesses and some other employers. The credits would apply to programs leading to IT certification. The motivation of the bill is to better train the U.S. work force for high-tech jobs.

"Demand for skilled information technology workers is already high, and experts forecast an even greater shortfall in the future," Conrad said introducing the bill.

Demand remains high for IT workers, although a study this month by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) notes that demand is much less now than before the dot-com crash.

ITAA found that there are 10.4 million IT workers in the United States, with companies planning to hire an additional 900,000. However, 425,000 of those jobs are expected to go unfilled "because of a lack of applicants with the requisite technical and non-technical skills," the report said.

That level of unfilled jobs is still much lower than last year, when the ITAA estimates there was a shortfall of 850,000 IT workers. "Demand for IT workers is down 44 percent from 2000," the report said, although total IT employment remains high.

Many of the jobs left unfilled by U.S. workers have gone to foreign workers on so-called H-1B visas. Because of the strong need for IT workers, Congress last fall increased the number of H-1B workers allowed to enter the United States, but many members view that as only a short-term solution.

"We should not rely on workers from overseas to meet our shortfall," Conrad said. "We should offer affordable education and training opportunities here at home, and build a strong and versatile domestic work force."

Conrad's bill would create a 15-member Information Technology Training Certification Advisory Board made up of IT professionals and appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury. The board would review IT training programs and decide which ones were eligible for tax credits.

The co-sponsors of Conrad's IT bill include Senators Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Harry Reid, D-Nev., Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Olympia Snowe, R-Me.


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