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May 1, 2009 2:59 PM

Tech Alliance says Washington state lags peer states in educating students for technology jobs

Posted by Sharon Chan

Before Ray Ozzie took the stage at the Technology Alliance's lunch today, the group presented its annual benchmark study comparing Washington with 10 states it considers peers for centers of technology. The alliance is a statewide group of business and academic leaders working to promote a strong technology economy.

Jeremy Jaech, the incoming chair of the alliance, said the state ranked last among peers in strong graduate programs for science and technology. Peers include Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, California, New York, Colorado and Utah. In 2005, 7.4 science and engineering doctorate degrees were awarded per 1,000 Ph.D.s in Washington, compared with 26.8 per 1,000 in Massachusetts. That puts Washington at 46th out of 50 states.

The state is also not producing enough bachelor's degrees to keep up with the science and engineering workforce, according to the alliance report. The state is 36th in the nation for overall bachelor's degree production, based on the number of degrees awarded as a percentage of the state's college-age population.

"We're most concerned about what benchmarking tells us about higher education," said Jaech. "While we have qualitatively strong programs they are too small."

The good news that came out of the report is that the state has a strong engineering workforce, active venture-capital community and strong federally and privately funded research. Washington ranks third in the nation for engineering employment, moving up from ninth place six years ago. The state also ranks third in the nation for the amount venture capital invested per $1,000 of gross domestic product, after California and Massachusetts.

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