Feds shoulder burden of technology worker shortage

Feds shoulder burden of technology worker shortage

BY RICHARD W. WALKER | GCN STAFF

For many federal information technology executives, the shortage of technology workers is a dreary fact of life.

In a recent GCN telephone survey, 59 percent of federal IT managers interviewed reported that their agencies or organizations suffer from a dearth of technology workers.


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size="2" color="#FF0000">The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on information technology work force issues is based on a telephone survey of 100 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT managers.

And the impact of the shortage is palpable.
Feds surveyed grumbled about heavy workloads and project backlogs.

'I'm overworked,' complained a Navy computer specialist in San Diego.

'I have to work too many hours,' said an Air Force systems specialist in San Antonio.

'I have an outrageous workload,' said a Justice Department systems manager in Kentucky.

'There aren't enough people to go around for assignments,' said a Defense Logistics Agency systems manager in Ohio.

The shortage of IT specialists also means that projects lag behind schedule and deadlines aren't met, they said.

'We have difficulty meeting deadlines,' said Richard Burke, senior network administrator for Defense Microelectronics Activity at McClellan Air Force Base, Calif., who termed the IT worker shortage at his organization chronic.

'As a rule, it's not going to bring us to our knees, but it delays other projects,' he said. 'We have one we're finishing up in bits and pieces that probably should have been online more than two months ago.'

Burke said that, without extra help, he and two other network administrators working on the project'the installation of a new firewall'haven't been able to keep on schedule.

'We're so busy it's hard to get the three of us together,' Burke said. 'If we had one or two more individuals who could take over some of the [regular system administration tasks], we could spend five or six hours a day on it, rather than one or two hours, and get the project done faster.'

Burke said higher pay is probably the biggest single answer to the government's technology work force shortage. But, he added, offering techies more meaningful and engaging work also is a solution.

'If we're not putting them on projects that are totally new, or where they haven't done a portion of the workload before, we're going to have a tough time recruiting,' he said.

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