Where Will Your Future IT Workers Come From?

Finding the right IT people with the right skills is critical to keeping your business running smoothly. So what are you doing to groom the next generation of IT workers for your future hiring needs? It's time to mentor some kids through groups like Teens In Tech and TechGirlz.

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A key step was the acquisition of office space where the group could create a young person's technology incubator. The space was donated by Appcelerator, a mobile cloud application development platform vendor, which also helps run the incubator in Mountain View, Calif.

The incubator first opened for business June 22, and since then six teams of young entrepreneurs, boys and girls ages 14 to 19, have been working daily on the first projects being developed.

The first six projects focus on:

*Development of a new kind of geo-location service.

*The creation of an iPhone and Android game.

*Development of an online code editor.

*Creation of a high school note-sharing site.

*Development of a budgeting Web site.

*Creation of a social Web site where you can share a photo of your desk and workspace with others. "People are interested in the kinds of equipment people use," Brusilovsky says.

Teens In Tech isn't a widely-available membership organization at this point, but that could change by late next year. Right now, the teens who are involved come to the incubator, post info on the group's blogs and stay active with each other.

The kids have been hard at work on their incubator projects so they can be prepared to present them at the first Teens In Tech Conference on Aug. 5, which will be held at the infamous Palo Alto Research Center. The event is being sponsored by a host of companies, including General Motors, Microsoft BizSpark, Meshin, PARC, SOS Ready, STM Bags, Eventbrite, RadTech and Vapur.

"It's incredible," Brusilovsky says. "We've been working so hard getting ready to launch the event in the next few weeks and to unveil the products in the incubator. We're really looking forward to that."

One of the reasons for having a tech group aimed specifically at kids, he says, is that adults often don't understand teen entrepreneurs. "It's often easier for teens to talk to other teens about problems they're having with their tech ideas. People feel more comfortable working with people their own age."

There are other similar groups out there, too.

There's Build.org in Redwood City, Calif., which runs youth incubators and entrepreneurship programs to excite and propel disengaged, low-income students to finish high school and go on to success in college.

And in the Philadelphia metro area, there's TechGirlz, a two-year-old non-profit group that works with young girls, encouraging them to study math and science in school so they can pursue careers in technology. The problem, according to TechGirlz, is that girls are often choosing to opt out of technology at a relatively young age because they're not being encouraged and mentored.

Last April, I was at a tech conference where a group of TechGirlz members gathered with two visionary women in technology, Stormy Peters of Mozilla and Molly Holzschlag of Opera Software, to share their ideas and dreams.

"I started by teaching myself HTML then I started learning Python," one bright-eyed girl named Eliana with braces, hot pink pants and long, curly dark hair told me that day. "What got me involved was that ever since I was really little, I was always attracted to video games and computers."

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