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This timeless op-ed by Elaine L. Chao, then U.S. Secretary of Labor was first published in USBE magazine’s diversity issue January 2003.

Regardless of current stock process or the latest fallout from the telecom industry, this much is certain: You are in demand. Information Technology (IT) companies and tech workers are the twin pistons helping to drive the economy and sustain the high rate of productivity.

Today nearly one in seven workers are employed in IT or high-tech jobs. That’s 14 percent of the U.S. total employment. That’s a tremendous accomplishment, considering that Intel’s Pentium chip wasn’t even launched until 1993 and the Power Mac debuted the following year!

As I pointed out recently at a conference in Washington D.C., the integration of information technology into the workplace is probably the single greatest factor in the current high rate of U.S. productivity. The central issue is whether we can meet the ongoing demand for IT workers. And yes, the demand will remain strong in the future.

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, eight of the 10 fastest-growing occupations are IT-related. They will account for one-quarter of all job growth through 2008. On the list of occupations gaining the most jobs, right up front are computer support specialists and software engineers.

So, my advice to job seekers is this: Opportunities abound. Be disciplined, persistent, and prepared.

Tyrone Taborn, the publisher of this magazine, signaled the need to counteract the myth that IT is no longer a key business sector, when he said, “The real victims of the dot-com bust may be young people who have gotten the impression that technology was just a fad.”

It’s important to understand that in most companies, the benefits of IT have yet to be fully realized. There is still so much room for growth and opportunity.

Given today’s ever-changing job market, I always tell young people that finding a job takes hard work and determination. You need to have confidence in yourself and never give up.

There is no question that people of color have different concerns in our society. But the U.S. workforce is becoming more diverse with each passing year, and people of color are the fastest-growing part of the labor force. The global competition for skilled professionals is so great that savvy companies cannot afford to neglect any group of talented workers.

I know from personal experience what it’s like to “on the outside looking in” and the challenges involved in getting the opportunity to succeed.

I am an immigrant to this country, having arrived in America at the age of eight. I entered third grade without speaking a word of English. It was hard work, determination, and faith that carried my family through the lean years.

Throughout my career, I have kept on my desk a photograph of my father’s native farm village in China. It shows some humble thatched mud huts and chickens and pigs picking at the dirt. Whenever I encounter difficulties, I look at that photo and think, “If my parents can survive this and come to America, then I can surely surmount my challenges.”

Many Americans of African descent have faced so much more. Yet, America is a land of abundant opportunities that grows more inclusive each passing year. Today, people from all backgrounds are living lives of opportunity and realizing the American dream. It is the story of our country, which today celebrates diversity as one of its treasures.

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