Slowing the brain drain

General Services Administration officials have figured out how to slow the information technology brain drain with a solution so simple it’s hard to believe no one thought of it sooner.

It is a program called the Rising CIO Stars Forum. It entails finding an auditorium, inviting a few experienced IT executives and then advertising to attract an audience.

The first forum, held April 6, offered the expertise of two high-level IT security executives. Marianne Swanson, senior adviser for information security management at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Ron Ross, project leader for NIST’s Federal Information Security Management Act Implementation Project, spoke to about 100 federal IT workers.

"We're trying to figure out how to create the next generation of leaders," said Monica Fitzgerald, acting deputy director for professional management at GSA.

One of the challenges is trying to get the IT community to "think of themselves as the next generation of leaders and really capture the topics we have in government," she said.

Although invited speakers are usually paid, many government officials are willing to give their time for free, she said. By attending the forums, people who want to review a particular subject can do so without spending hours traveling to conferences or taking online courses.

"It is definitely a professional development opportunity," said GSA spokeswoman Viki Reath.

At the forums, which are held quarterly, GSA officials try to appeal to people seeking information about IT subjects. Other sessions this year will focus on enterprise architecture, project management and business performance management.

The Government Accountability Office has emphasized the importance of building relationships. In a report last August, GAO officials urged federal chief information officers to network informally, form alliances and build friendships to help ensure support for information and technology management.

The rising stars forums are an important part of the President's Management Agenda, which addresses strategic workforce management, said Yvette Gibson, program specialist and project manager for CIO University, a GSA program created to help further the education of federal IT personnel.

Survey: Workforce crisis may have eased a bit

The federal information technology workforce is definitely graying, but the widely predicted brain drain appears to be slowing, according to a new survey from the CIO Council and the Office of Personnel Management.

In its second annual survey of more than 22,000 federal IT workers, OPM found no dramatic gain or loss in any technical area since last year’s survey.

“There were no significant differences in the skill or competency proficiencies between the retiring population and the IT workforce population in general,” the report states.

According to the survey, 14 percent of IT workers plan to retire in the next three years and an additional 16 percent in the next four to six years. Those numbers remained stable since the previous year.

As a result, the federal workforce is not at risk of losing people with a particular competency or skill, according to the report. Nevertheless, the survey found that project managers were the most likely to retire in the next three years, and chief information officers must find a way to replace retirees’ skills when hiring new workers.

— Judi Hasson

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