Agencies have to determine where they need IT skills

'We want them to figure out their as-is, their to-be and how they will get from here to there.'

'Treasury CIO Ira Hobbs

Henrik G. de Gyor

To meet the administration's goal of eliminating the IT skill gaps within at least 13 executive agencies in fiscal 2005, the CIO Council is asking departments to identify disparities within their work on the President's Management Agenda and within their core mission programs.

The goal is for agencies to have enough IT workers qualified to meet agencies' future needs and survive the potential wave of retirements, said Ira Hobbs, Treasury CIO and co-chairman of the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for IT committee.

While two recent studies found that retirement is not having the effect on agencies that many once thought it would, the Office of Management and Budget determined that agencies need more project managers, enterprise architects and IT security experts. 'We've identified three areas that are critical, but that is not all that is critical,' Hobbs said.

Officials said the OMB survey will help determine other skills feds need to pick up.

To collect this information, the administration will direct agencies to submit a plan by Aug. 30 to close their skill gaps, said Karen Evans, OMB's administrator for e-government and IT. Evans said Clay Johnson, OMB's deputy director for management, will send a letter to agency executives this month with specific guidance.

OMB and the Office of Personnel Management will review the plans and look for trends in specific agencies and among agencies governmentwide, Evans said.

In effect, the council and OMB are asking agencies to apply the enterprise architecture methodology to their workforce needs, Hobbs said.

As is, to be: That is the question

'We want them to figure out their as-is, their to-be and how they will get from here to there,' Hobbs said during a CIO Council report at the FOSE 2005 trade show earlier this month in Washington.

One survey by the Partnership for Public Service, the National Academy of Public Administration and the New York Times found agencies will hire only 3,292 IT workers over the next two years. And a recent CIO Council report found more IT employees are remaining in their jobs and that their skills are not diminishing.

'We will ask agencies about their broad needs, but if there is a specific employee category that is unique to that agency, we want to know about it,' Hobbs said. 'We may end up building a case that more than one agency has this need.'

Hobbs added that for some of these positions agencies may be able to use the direct-hire authority OPM instituted in 2003.

'Any agency can ask for direct-hire authority,' Hobbs said. 'We are trying to make sure CIOs are aware of it.'

Once these plans are in place, Hobbs said agencies still would depend on the usual set of tools for workforce training. But, he said, more feds are using these tools, such as the CIO University, a collection of 17 universities around the country offering curricula based on core IT skills outlined in the Clinger Cohen Act.

Hobbs said of the 150 students that will graduate in June, about 60 are federal employees'a significant increase over the last few years.

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