Retirement having little effect on IT skills, survey finds

Retirement is not diluting the skills of the federal IT workforce, according to a new study by the CIO Council and the Office of Personnel Management.

The second IT Workforce Capability Assessment Survey of federal workers' proficiencies found that their top 10 ranked technical competencies remained largely the same from 2003 to 2004.

Only two of the top 10 changed, with requirements analysis and systems life cycle management replacing computer languages and knowledge management. And the general competencies of the IT workforce, such as interpersonal skills, problem solving and oral communication, went unchanged between the two surveys.

The CIO Council and OPM surveyed 22,104 IT workers in 12 General Schedule or Foreign Service categories that directly involve IT or have a major IT component, such as management and program analysis. The employees ranged from GS-5s to members of the Senior Executive Service, and 87 percent were from cabinet-level agencies.

The survey is a part of a three-part plan to identify the skills, gaps and future needs of agency IT workforces. The CIO Council and OPM plan to finish the other two parts of the plan this spring, the report said.

'The true power of the IT Workforce Capability Assessment Survey lies in its ability to track shifts in competency and skill proficiencies over time,' the report noted. 'Consequently, subsequent administrations of this survey and the corresponding analysis reports that follow will begin to look at how proficiencies are changing over the years. Trends and changes over time will begin to emerge, and it is recommended that those findings be the basis for designing interventions and policy changes.'

The survey did find that the federal IT population is getting older, as 42 percent of workers are between 46 and 55 years old. Of the 19 percent of employees eligible to retire, only 12 percent said they plan to do so in the next three years.

Feds said they had the most expertise in desktop applications, Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system and document management, and the least proficiency with the Unified Modeling Language, Apply Macintosh operating systems and biometrics.

More employees are certified in network support, project management and operating systems than any other areas, while employees said they spend most of their time on customer support, project management and applications software. Workers also said IT security, systems analysis and data management took up a lot of their time.

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