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Tech Workers Find Wide-Open Market

High-tech workers displaced by a proposal to make Nokia’s local outpost into a separate company could do far worse than live in San Diego County.

“If they have a technical skill, they’ll be absorbed into the job market very, very quickly,” said Kevin Carroll, San Diego executive director for AeA, an advocacy group for the electronics industry.

San Diego technology companies face “a recruiting crisis,” said Carroll, whose organization was formerly known as the American Electronics Association. “Most companies I know are hiring, hiring aggressively, and finding it difficult to fill positions,” he said.

Carroll said he is seeing companies lure employees with more generous relocation packages, higher moving bonuses and mortgage assistance.

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Finland-based Nokia announced plans this month to spin off its unit dedicated to Code Division Multiple Access, a wireless telecom technology popularized by crosstown rival Qualcomm Inc. Nokia employs 1,300 people in San Diego. A Nokia spokesman said up to 250 employees will see their jobs cut as 1,050 to 1,100 employees move to the new company, which will be formed in conjunction with Sanyo.

Nokia’s Scripps Ranch facility “will go over to the new company,” said spokesman Brad Shewmake.

“It will be the headquarters of the new company,” he added.


New Firm Coming

Nokia announced Feb. 14 that it and Sanyo reached a preliminary agreement to form a new free-standing company comprised of their units dedicated to CDMA technology. Nokia said the final deal should be signed during the second quarter of 2006, and the new business will begin operations in the third quarter. When asked what the new firm will be called, a Nokia spokesman said the employees are simply referring to it as “the new company.”

The timeline assumes the companies obtain regulatory approvals and complete due diligence, or background investigations, to their satisfaction.

People who lose their jobs in the transaction will find other employers beckoning, including Qualcomm.

A Qualcomm spokeswoman said her company has 800 openings globally. Most are engineering positions in San Diego, she said, though Qualcomm is also seeking employees in information technology, product management, marketing, finance and other areas.

Steve Lock, San Diego branch manager for Robert Half Technology, said he sees a demand for software engineers locally.

“It’s almost a challenge now, finding qualified candidates,” Lock said. “If I had 10 mid- or senior-level engineers, I could put them to work tomorrow.”


Help Wanted

Lock’s company places software engineers, software developers and Web developers.

Robert Half Technology interviewed 200 chief information officers in the San Diego area toward the end of 2005. Some 15 percent of the respondents said they planned to hire information-technology professionals, while 2 percent said they planned to reduce personnel, for a net 13 percent anticipating hiring.

Nationwide, Robert Half Technology found a net 12 percent of CIOs need help this quarter. Washington, D.C., companies are particularly hungry.

Lock said he is seeing a lot of activity among San Diego biotech companies that need employees to take care of their information-technology and network needs.

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