State tools up to train engineers

In the nationwide race to lure high-technology firms, Colorado is jumping off the starting block as one of the front-runners.

The Rocky Mountain State has become a center for many computer and aerospace firms alike and could one day emerge as an alternative to Boston's Route 128 and California's Silicon Valley.

Most of the estimated 350 high-tech companies in the state are relatively small. But bigger companies - such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard - also have plants here.

A recent survey by the American Electronics Association of a group of companies in the state predicted that technical employment in Colorado, one measurement of the strength of the electronics sector, will rise more than 24 percent a year through 1985 - the highest of nine big high-tech states polled.

Still, high-tech growth could be checked by the lack of engineers and other skilled workers. To upgrade the home-grown labor pool, state lawmakers and business leaders are trying to improve existing training programs. One area targeted for expanded facilities is Colorado Springs, a growing high-tech city at the foot of Pikes Peak.

An $8 million engineering and science center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) is now in the works. But though plans have been approved , the request languishes in the state legislature.

Gov. Richard D. Lamm recently suggested that money be raised by issuing a revenue bond, but local lawmakers rejected the idea as a shirking of state responsibility.

A bill has been introduced to establish a research and training institute using funds from the state lottery. But the lottery has yet to sell its first ticket.

By most accounts, Colorado Springs could use some better training programs. Lack of top-quality education is a prime reason a number of high-tech firms have bypassed the area for plant relocations.

''Colorado does not have the resources to produce enough highly trained people,'' said Pat Hill Hubbard of the American Electronics Association in California.

William Parzybok, general manager of Hewlett-Packard's electronics measurement group based in Colorado, says, ''Last year we hired more electronics and computer engineers than the whole state produced.''

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