Council eyes better federal IT training

The Chief Information Officers Council wants to improve technical training so agencies
can retain systems workers, improve skills generally and train nontechnical employees to
use systems.


To assess the current level of information technology education and training, the
council last month distributed a 12-page survey to its 30 member agencies.


The CIO Council will study the responses and come up with recommendations for training
governmentwide.


The survey will help determine best practices, said Gloria Parker, the Education
Department's deputy CIO and chairwoman of the council's Education and Training Committee.


"As a result of that survey, we will put a best-practices guide in place that
agencies can use as a road map for education and training," she said at a recent
Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's conference.


The questionnaire is divided into two sections.


The first group of questions asks agencies to discuss how well they are meeting the
core competency recommendations that Congress included in the Information Technology
Management Reform Act.


The CIO Council in February 1997 adopted the recommendations as the way to improve IT
training.


The council wants to know where agencies stand in regard to the four provisions of that
law, said Jim Bouck, leader of the survey team and an evaluator for the General Accounting
Office's Accounting and Information Division.


The law requires agencies to set education and training requirements, and assess if
agency employees meet the requirements.


The law then directs agencies to set a plan to train employees and to report progress
to agency chiefs.


But the questions go beyond simply meeting the Information Technology Management Reform
Act, Bouck said.


"We're looking to find out what training and organization they've done" for
adoption in a governmentwide best- practices paper, he said.


The second set of questions, directed at systems managers and training organizations,
asks for specific information about IT training programs, such as how much agencies have
budgeted for training and their view on whether the training has been successful.


The council developed the survey with help from the General Services Administration,
the Industry Advisory Council, the American Society for Training and Development and the
Bureau of Labor Statistics.


As part of the survey, the committee team is doing follow-up interviews on some items
not included in the questionnaire.


For example, there are no specific questions about employee retention, Bouck said.


"It's a silent but understood part of this," he said. "If we can improve
the training, that will be a side benefit."


Employee retention has become a priority, Parker said, as technically skilled staff
members have become more difficult to find and hire [GCN, Feb. 9, Page 48].


Staff retention had not been a top priority when the CIO Council developed its
strategic plan, she said, but it is now.


The survey team will finish its work by the summer, and the council plans to issue the
best-practices guide before year's end.


The council posted the survey on its World Wide Web site at http://www.cio.fed.gov.


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