IT executives focus on worker shortage, e-gov at Texas conference

IT executives focus on worker shortage, e-gov at Texas conference

By Preeti Vasishtha

GCN Staff

MARCH 14—A couple of government information technology gurus discussed two related topics—work force shortages and electronic-government challenges—during the opening sessions of the Information Processing Interagency Conference in Austin, Texas.

'People are our most important asset,' Ira Hobbs, acting chief information officer of the Agriculture Department, told federal and industry officials during a Tuesday panel discussion.

Those people, including CIOs at the federal, state and local levels, should define what e-government means and work collectively to reach the goals they set, said Don Upson, Virginia secretary of technology, in a keynote address.

'We have a bubble of IT workers who can decide to leave anytime,' Hobbs said.

To increase retention, the federal government should create IT job categories that better correspond to private-sector jobs, he said. The Office of Personnel Management is studying federal IT job categories and will release a report this year, Hobbs said.

The expected retirement of many skilled, experienced IT workers is a major crisis the government must address immediately, he said.

Managers should engage in recruiting and training employees, Hobbs said, and they should encourage career development by helping workers upgrade their skills.

Another problem is losing younger workers who are tempted by private-sector salaries. Pay raises and improved retention strategies would slow the exodus, he said.

The government should offer scholarships to IT students in college as an incentive to work for Uncle Sam, Hobbs said.

Once on board, government IT workers need to learn to communicate with policy-makers who often do not understand technical language, Upson said.

E-government's success depends on clearly communicating the vision to the new administration, he said.

'E-gov is not about cutting costs,' Upson said. 'It's about providing better services to citizens.'

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