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The Net Generation Grows Up

These days, almost everybody in business has their eye on the "Net Generation," the aptly named, computer-savvy young people born after 1978. Although still in their teens, this generation has had more exposure to computers, the Internet, and programming than any other group in history. This year, as the first "Net" students select college majors, IT enrollments were up between 25% and 40%, reversing an eight-year trend in which the number of computer science degrees declined by almost half.

But what distinguishes this generation from its predecessors is not just its level of technical sophistication, but its youth. Students now study Pascal, C++, and Java in high school and can choose classes in visual design and in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) programming. This early learning has its rewards, as more and more high schoolers find that their skills are in demand.

Kentucky's public school system recruits students to maintain district-wide networks housing websites, e-mail systems, and basic office applications. When they graduate, these students will be Certified Novell Engineers or Network Administrators. Meanwhile, students in Sunnyvale, California can enroll in a class where they fix computers and software and even teach their teachers about technology.

All this means that many high-tech businesses will increasingly recruit at the high school level. There will be more internship programs and more high school students who skip college altogether and go directly to work for companies who can teach them the advanced programming skills they need. It seems that in more ways than one, the Net Generation is changing the shape of business.

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