Linking the topics of high technology and education, Marc Holtzman addressed an audience of nearly 100 at this year’s Core Technologies for Space Systems Conference. The Colorado Secretary of Technology said he believes that many students could find a future in high technology and the space industry if given a chance.

“The space industry is, indeed, in so many ways, the future of our technology economy and certainly the backbone of what gives America its military strength and superiority,” said Holtzman.

The average annual salary of a high technology worker averages about $64,000, said Holtzman. Last year, 92 out of every 1,000 workers in Colorado were working in the high technology field. The previous year, that number was 86 out of every 1,000 workers.

“The space industry is, absolutely, a critical component of this big picture,” Holtzman said.

Celebrating its fifth year, the conference, held at the Doubletree Hotel Colorado Springs World Arena last week, provides a forum for the latest technical ideas and developments in core space technologies. The three-day event included an exhibit hall, speakers, panel discussions and presentations, integration and application of new space system technologies. They included seminars on space debris, propulsion and power, launch vehicles and a space battlelab.

Holtzman said he has seen little diversity in the technology field, such as not enough women and minorities. One solution he and Gov. Owens are working on is the development and implementation of a “High Tech High School.” The first high school of its kind began a couple of years ago in San Diego, California thanks to a $2.7 million donation from the (Bill) Gates Foundation. It has received nearly 10 times the number of applicants that it can accept and boasts a low three percent dropout rate.

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This charter school is similar to a technology incubator for students interested in working in the high-tech field but who don’t have the financial means to achieve this goal. All classes will be project based with real-life applications, such as internships. The student-to-advisor ratio is 13 to one and caters to ninth to 12th graders.

Holtzman expects to see up to six of these schools in Colorado within the next five years. Colorado’s first High Tech High School should open in Denver in the Fall of 2003. A recruiter will be hired early next year and will visit area organizations, churches, and high schools for potential candidates.

“Colorado Springs will, undoubtedly, be a prime location for one of the Governor’s High Tech High School initiatives,” said Holtzman, adding that the school will need a large amount of community support, including funding.

Startup funding would range between $9.5 million and $10 million and would require a partnering school. A portion of the needed capital would come from fundraising efforts with communities matching these funds. Hotlzman and Gov. Owens are also looking at philanthropic organizations, foundations and corporations. Venture capitalism would not be a part of the funding mechanism.

“From a domestic, economic point of view, we are in a globally competitive world today,” said Holtzman. “And if we don’t get our act together, if we don’t produce the number of engineers and scientists and people that are skilled to fill these position, we are going to lose out.”