Task force eyes better IT training at less cost

Task force eyes better IT training at less cost

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

The President's Task Force on Federal Training Technology is encouraging the development of information technology systems that will streamline agencies' training efforts and reduce costs.

'We believe this technology can allow you to deliver better training at less cost. At any level of investment, you ought to be able to do better,' said Henry Kelly, assistant director for technology for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The administration's efforts come as the Chief Information Officers Council is working on ways to cope with the government's IT work force shortage. The CIO Council's Education and Training Committee recently issued a report on recruiting and retaining IT personnel. It recommended agencies increase and maintain their investment in training.

The CIO Council is working with the task force, said Emzell Blanton, executive director of the presidential task force and senior adviser to the director of the Office of Personnel Management.

The CIO Council has also been developing a virtual CIO university. The university will consist of schools that will offer courses based on a set of core competencies established by the council. One of the goals of the program is to provide more online training. The council wants run the first pilots for the university this fall.

Using technology for training has the potential to attract and keep IT workers, officials said.

That's a fact

A 1995 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that organizations with high turnover rates spend less on training, and conversely organizations that spend more lavishly have significantly lower turnover rates, Kelly said.

Although the study did not focus exclusively on the public sector, Kelly said he believes the numbers hold true for government.

Furthermore, investments in education and training are essential as employees are asked to do more, he said.

'We must have a work force that can innovate,' Kelly said last month at the Excellence in Government '99 conference in Washington.

Using technology will not only automate the classroom but also reinvent training and education, Kelly said.''We can do things with this equipment that you just couldn't do with traditional [teaching] methods,' he said.

Intelligent tutoring systems can be more interactive and can be tailored to specific students, he said. Studies show that in classrooms the course often moves forward even though not all students fully understand the material.

Intelligent tutoring systems are also more flexible, Kelly said. Studies show the biggest obstacle for people taking classes is cost but nearly as important is that people are too busy, he said.

Tutoring systems help address those issues, Kelly said, because students can take the courses whenever and wherever it is convenient.

One of the administration's goals is to focus on training standards, Kelly said.

The Defense Department and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are working with business and industry groups to set standards for tutoring systems, Blanton said.

The government is following a market-driven approach to ensure interoperability, Kelly said. The approach will also help build affordable, high-quality applications, he said.

Earlier this year, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13111, which directs agencies to use technology to improve training opportunities for federal employees [GCN, Jan. 25, Page 8]. The order also created the President's Task Force on Federal Training Technology.

Blanton said the task force will make its recommendations to Clinton by July of next year.

The task force will focus not only on types of training, but on procurement and financial requirements, and systems R&D, he said.

The order instructs agencies to work with industry, academic and other groups to foster an appropriate competitive market for electronic instruction, Kelly said.

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