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Channel pros look to talent development of young techs

Hiring at solution providers is getting more complicated; relying on talent development of young and inexperienced techs may be the best option.

Historically speaking, I have received more comments on articles or opinion columns I've written about careers for solution providers or talent development than any other topic.

I think it's just the nature of the human beast to focus on things that are personal to them. And what could be more personal than your livelihood? Or the livelihood of your children? And that, my friends, is starting to keep me up at night.

I'm not sure if they've really come up with a name for the current generation of teenagers (are we on Generation Z yet?). But what worries me is the serious disconnect between the way they communicate, make decisions and act, and the way that people of a certain age (like me) do things.

The fact is, no matter how well we may use our notebooks and PDAs and so on, these are things that came to many of us mid-career. For those 20 to 25 years younger than us, the use of smart tools is ingrained.

At a dinner party recently, I listened to a woman defend her decision to never "allow" her kids to text on their cell phones -- about how dangerous it is and how it must be stopped. Unfortunately, there is no stopping it; the flood gates have opened. The best we can do as adults is help those less jaded and experienced than ourselves apply technology responsibly.

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Maybe you don't care right now. Kids young enough to be forbidden to text won't enter the full-time workforce (whatever that will mean by that time) for probably five to 10 years. But here's why you should.

For starters, these kids are really tech-savvy. For them, interacting with Software as a Service, using Internet telephony, texting and instant messaging are second nature. If you aren't communicating in these ways, you're going to have a hard time getting through. And that means you're going to miss out on an infusion of fresh ideas and skills.

I've heard where certain companies are starting to look toward college interns for advice in interface design and product development.

This is a smart move, if for no other reason than at some point these people will be at least your customers, if not your staff members. But can you say with authority that you know the best way to communicate with them?

For that matter, how old is the youngest person on your staff? In your rush to ensure instant productivity, are you overlooking staff development activities?

All around me, people are talking about an IT talent crisis. But what are you doing to address it? Are you snapping up people with valuable business process knowledge that could help you transform your selling techniques or leveraging the innovative spirit of another generation?

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is pushing big-time for dialogue about talent development, and developing the IT workforce of the future was a big push for its 25th Anniversary Scholarship Essay Contest (the results of which were announced last month at its Breakaway event).

Students were asked to build on the following statement: "In November 1985, Microsoft Windows version 1.0 was released. It changed forever the way we use computers. In 2001, Apple launched iPod, revolutionizing the worlds of music and entertainment. The coolest new technology of the next 25 years will be … "

The five winners, who each received a $5,000 scholarship, wrote about all manner of technologies, from the "tOdo" all-in-one handheld gadget (for the device-weary); kitchen networking appliances; an idea for applying search engine technology to items in your "real" world; automobile computers that will do the driving for you; and, finally, more responsible approaches to power consumption. You can find all of the winning essays on the CompTIA Web site. Here are the links:

Travis Bligen from Palmetto, Fla. ("tOdO")

Brandon McMenemy from Columbia, S.C. ("Technological Super Cars")

Kristie Pollard from Bennington, Vt. ("Kitchen Networking")

Nick Stocchero from Naperville, Ill. ("Search Engines")

Louis Wegner from Racine, Wis. ("IT Wasteland")

I do not have any children myself. But I think it's my duty -- and yours -- to help harness and develop the talent that will come after us. You can only help your own company in the process.

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