By Anne Fisher, contributor
FORTUNE -- Dear Annie: Since being pink-slipped from my job as a construction manager almost three years ago, I've been making ends meet with a string of low-skilled jobs that don't really use my abilities and aren't leading anywhere. I keep hearing that there are a lot of opportunities in high tech, and I'd love to go after a job in that field, but I have almost no formal tech training (although I enjoy fooling around with computers and have taught myself a couple of programming languages in my spare time). I did take a few computer science courses in college, but I never graduated.
So, I have two questions: Would I have to go back and finish college to get into IT? And, even if I somehow managed to do that, what are my chances of getting hired with no work experience as a techie? — Dead End Dan
Dear Dan: It's certainly true that job opportunities are plentiful in high tech. Most in demand right now are people skilled in health care IT, security (both network and mobile), systems integration, and mobile app development. Then there's the cloud. Help-wanted ads for cloud computing are up 61% over last year at this time, according to a new study by workforce-research firm Wanted Technologies.
Altogether, says Todd Thibodeaux, head of computer industry trade group CompTIA, about half a million IT jobs in the U.S. are going begging. One reason employers can't find enough skilled hires, even with unemployment so high: a wide range of federal and state-funded grant programs are available to pay for tech training, yet most people who are eligible to apply (like you, perhaps) are unaware that the programs exist.
"It's a huge problem," says Thibodeaux. "Government agencies that administer these grants, at both the federal and state levels, need to do a much better job of getting the word out."
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