Government CIOs and the IT Talent Gap

Faced with an aging workforce, federal agencies are having a tough time hiring fresh tech talent. States, meanwhile, are getting innovative in recruiting IT workers.
Posted September 23, 2016

Pedro Hernandez

Many organizations are struggling to find skilled IT workers, but the problem appears to be more acute in government agencies.

Two new studies reveal some of the staffing challenges that federal and state agencies are encountering. "The greatest challenge for federal agencies is recruiting and retaining younger employees, those who represent the foundation of the workforce in the years ahead," states The 2016 Federal CIO Survey from the Professional Services Council and Grant Thornton.

Half of the federal workforce is comprised of Baby Boomers (45 to 64 years of age), meaning that the retirement clock is ticking.

The average federal employee is over 45, three years older than the average worker in the private sector. Millennials (30 and under) make up less than 7 percent of the federal workforce compared to 23 percent of the U.S. workforce overall, stated the report, citing data from the Partnership for Public Service. Taken altogether, Federal CIOs fear that the performance of government services and programs will suffer in the coming decades due to the gradual loss of "deep experience and institutional memory."

In terms of skill sets, Federal CIOs are finding it tough to fill positions related to cybersecurity, digital and mobile services, IT architectures and DevOps. Expertise aside, federal agencies are also finding it difficult to compete with the higher salaries provided by that private sector and drawn-out hiring processes (up to 9 to 12 months) that scare away candidates.

Like their federal counterparts, state CIOs are also finding it difficult to hire IT security experts and compete with private sector compensation, according to the 2016 State CIO Survey: The Adaptable State CIO from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), Grant Thornton and CompTIA. Although the situation appears bleak, states are using innovative approaches to fill their IT departments' ranks.

Seventy-five percent of state CIOs said they were promoting greater job stability and other non-salary benefits to attract and retain IT talent. Sixty-four percent said they had issued calls to public service; 39 percent established public/private internship programs and 35 percent sponsored hackathons and other community-awareness events.

"Truly, state government knows that it cannot compete with the private sector on compensation," stated the NASCIO report. "Rather, state CIOs are innovating and promoting the experiences that state IT can offer that the private sector cannot."

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Tags: government IT, CIO, talent gap

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