Data-driven government

Salary shortfalls and scary skill gaps

States are struggling to recruit and retain IT talent, according to a new report from the National Association of State CIOs -- a problem that many state officials say is already affecting their IT plans and strategies.

Filling the skill gap left by retiring baby boomers is one of the biggest challenges. Forty percent of state CIOs report that up to 20 percent of their IT employees may be eligible for retirement within the year.

States are doing their best to direct new talent toward vacant positions. But 92 percent of states say public sector pay grades make it challenging to recruit the talent they need, and positions remain vacant for months.

According to the report, upper-level positions are often empty for 3-5 months, with a 2-3 month time frame for entry- and mid-level jobs.

And salary is the biggest issue when it comes to the “most pressing” skill set state CIOs want in new recruits: cyber security. “There is a real challenge to recruit and retain cyber professionals with the skill sets needed for effective cybersecurity protection,” the report states. Application development, programming and support, and architecture also ranked high on the list of IT talent that is proving hard for states to hire.

But where money is short, many states are looking for other means to attract skilled IT workers. Noting the 86 million millennials that will be in the workforce by 2020, the report says many states are looking to cater to that group’s priorities, including flexible work hours, a collaborative working environment, and work-life integration.

The report makes a number of similar recommendations to CIOs in the “Call to Action” section, urging IT shops to make work environments stimulating and minimizing bureaucracy. It also calls on CIOs to document what is working and what isn’t in employee hiring and retention, and incorporate those lessons into a formal recruitment strategy.

In the short term, outsourcing seems to be the solution of choice for many states. “Expand outsourcing,” “outsource business applications through a SaaS model,” and “expand existing IT shared services model” were the most popular responses to how states will deal with IT shortages in the next three years.

Forty-nine states and territories took part in the survey. Read the full report here.

About the Author

Suzette Lohmeyer is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.

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