CIO Council tackles IT staffing shortage

The Education and Training Committee of the federal CIO Council last month kicked off an effort to address the problems agencies face in recruiting and retaining information technology workers.

Glenn Sutton, vice chairman of the committee and deputy chief information officer at the Office of Personnel Management, said he expects the committee to produce a report later this year that may include recommendations for action by OPM to help federal managers attract talented technical employees. He said committee members will meet for the first time on Feb. 12 to plot the proj-ect's course.

"We are going to assess the problem and try to bring it to the attention of people who can solve it," Sutton said.

He said the establishment of the group was largely precipitated by reports from industry that the private sector also was experiencing difficulty filling its IT job slots with talented workers.

The Northern Virginia Technology Council estimated that close to 21,000 IT jobs are vacant in the national capital area, and 300,000 IT jobs are vacant nationwide.

Members of the CIO Council have said at meetings that they are losing their ability to attract and retain employees, many of whom are leaving for more lucrative jobs in private companies, Sutton said.

Paul Wohlleben, CIO at the General Services Administration's Public Building Service and a former member of the CIO Council, said the subject of human resources is one that often arises during discussions between federal IT managers. "We are trying to determine how we can attract people while recognizing that the shortage of people is a huge problem in both government and industry," Wohlleben said.

Sutton said his group will attempt to get its arms around the problem by studying information in federal employment databases and by asking agency representatives to report on their own hiring experiences.

Gloria Parker, deputy CIO at the Education Department, last month briefed council members on the committee's plans and the need for agency cooperation to tackle the issue. Sutton said representatives from agencies throughout government will augment the 12 committee members' work on the issue.

Sutton added that he views the problem on two levels: short-term and long-term. He said the committee hopes to determine whether the short-term problems may be remedied with some quick fixes. He said long-term problems will require different, more forward-looking solutions.

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