Antisocial Nerds Need Not Apply

Recruiters are calling it the "nerd" factor - the image of cybergeeks in blue jeans and sneakers, camped out in dimly lit cubicles hacking away on their keyboards.

And it could be one reason (perhaps a bigger one than most admit) why tech-savvy teens hesitate to pursue careers in computing.

"Many students don't aspire to be the kinds of people they imagine are in technological fields," says Jessie Woolley, president of Crimson & Brown Associates, a campus-recruiting firm based in Boston.

That may help explain why only 3 percent of the high school graduates of the class of 1998 who took the ACT college admissions test picked computer and information science as likely vocations. Less than 1 percent chose computer engineering.

Mike Riehle, a high school senior in Raleigh, N.C., (and a techie at heart) says he used to believe the stereotypes before he spent the past two summers working for local computer firms.

"I used to think these people had no social life ... and very few social skills," Mike says. "But I found out that wasn't true."

Barbara Gordon, who coordinates the New Media Academy at Hollywood High School here in Los Angeles, says it's an issue she regularly addresses in classes.

"We actually discuss that quite openly with the students," says Ms. Gordon, whose program introduces teens to film, animation, and Web design.

"We want students to know that the computer nerds of today are the ones who are going to earn the dollars tomorrow."

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