CIOs search for prot'g's

CIOs search for Prot'g's

The mentoring program is an effort to retain scarce IT workers, HUD CIO Gloria Parker says.

The Chief Information Officers Council has begun posting assignments for its mentoring program, designed to help federal information professionals enhance their job skills.

The council began accepting applications for the program last month and by month's end had posted eight assignments lasting from three months to a year.

'We're getting a lot of phone calls,' said program officer Tom Horan, acting deputy associate administrator for information technology in the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy.

But defining the assignments that prot'g's will work on is taking longer than expected. The deadline for posting the assignments, shown in the Mentoring Program section at www.cio.gov, was extended to mid-September, and work will begin Oct. 1.

Train and retain

The mentoring program is an effort to train and retain IT workers'a class of employee in high demand and short supply in both the government and commercial sectors.

The program is a small but important effort, said Gloria Parker, CIO of the Housing and Urban Development Department and co-chair of the council's IT Workforce Committee.

'We cannot retain our IT professionals if we don't develop them,' Parker said.

Prot'g's will work directly with the council's 11 committee co-chairs, who are departmental or agency-level CIOs or deputy CIOs. Some mentors will have more than one prot'g'.

Horan said there will be about 20 workers in the program. 'These people are going to be mentored by folks at the top of the IT pyramid,' he said.

A number of them are eager for the opportunity.

'I'm a GS-14 and looking to get my 15,' said Barbara Hoffman, who works in the office of the Navy CIO. 'I'm looking to broaden my skill set. I'd like to get some policy experience and broaden my electronic government training and knowledge so I can go somewhere else.'

Hoffman is team leader for the Navy's Common Access smart card issuance and has been working with smart cards for five years. She said she sees the mentoring program as a chance to move on.

'They like to keep you where you are,' she said. 'I've been there and done that, and it's time to move on and get something else.'

Let them go

One question Hoffman will face is whether her office will be willing to let her go for up to a year.

'Whether they'll be able to get permission to leave for six months or more remains to be seen,' Horan said. 'It's hard enough to get the work done with the shortage.'

Another issue is that many agency officials would like to see workers assigned to special projects, but under the mentoring program they will be working on CIO Council projects.

'To get the jobs done, we need full-time help on these projects,' Horan said, and the mentoring program is one means of getting it.

Most of the assignments defined so far are from the IT Workforce Committee, which has posted four. The Enterprise Interoperability and Emerging IT Committee has two assignments posted, and the E-government and the Capital Planning and IT Management committees have one each. Horan said he expects more.

Responsibilities range from public relations to developing and implementing programs. The work force committee has a three-month position for someone to coordinate the council's high school outreach program, and there is a one-year position to run the mentoring program itself.

Because of the long-term benefits for training and retention, Horan said, he does not expect serious roadblocks for workers who want to participate.

'What the agency is doing is investing in that person's development,' he said. 'Twelve or 20 persons are not going to make a vacuum in an agency's work force.'

At the end of their assignments, workers will be able to return to their previous positions with full benefits.

According to a comptroller general's decision, interagency work assignments are on a reimbursable basis, so the council will pay the home agency the cost of taking the worker away.

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