Navy unveils IT work force plan

After a yearlong study designed to resolve the growing shortage of information

technology personnel, the Navy has issued a draft five-year plan that officials

say will help the service attract and retain highly skilled knowledge workers.

The draft version of what the Navy calls the Information Management/

Information Technology Workforce Strategic Plan was approved July 18 by

Dan Porter, the service's chief information officer. It establishes what

Porter calls a "framework" for building a core group of career-oriented

IT workers.

The focus of the Navy's plan is to create a pipeline of "core" IT personnel

who will constitute the service's cadre of IT career professionals. That

group, along with "expert users," will be provided timely, tailored training

for jobs that require specific expertise.

Porter has requested feedback on the plan from all major Navy and Marine

Corps units by Aug. 14. The Navy plans to release its final plan by October.

Karen Eanis, the Navy's program leader for IM/IT Competency Management,

said the focus has shifted from hiring specific people to hiring and developing

people with the right competencies. "It's part of our strategy for leveraging

human capital," she said.

The Navy's deputy CIO for enterprise integration, Alex Bennett, called

the effort "extremely aggressive" and said initiatives are under way to

make it a reality. To date, the Navy has developed continuous learning guidance

that calls for 80 hours of continuous learning and has supported that effort

with mentoring, distance learning and exchange programs, she said.

Officials are also developing a career path guide as well, Bennett added.

"A plan itself doesn't change anything. We're taking the time to get the

buy-in."

The release of the plan culminates a yearlong look at the work force

challenges every federal agency faces: an aging IT work force, an increasing

number of outsourcing competitions, a lack of incentives to create a new

pipeline of federal workers, and a significant gap in pay and benefits between

the government and private sector.

"Today's work force management practices are — to use an IT analogy — legacy systems and must be transformed to adapt to new requirements,"

the plan stated. The new plan's goal "is to ensure [the Navy] has the right

people with the right skills in the right jobs at the right times."

IT's Inheritors

But who those "right people" are has evolved, according to the plan,

and they are not the same group that enabled the IT revolution. Today's

younger generation of IT workers demand the flexibility and benefits that

the Information Age can accommodate, according to the plan.

The current generation of IT workers has a different approach to knowledge,

according to the Navy. "They expect to be part of a more autonomous, global

and electronically networked force," according to the plan. "Virtual offices,

dispersed personnel and broad access to information will make the next generation

more fluid and require more flexible work rules."

Incentives and flexibility could offer solutions to some of the government's

most pressing work force challenges, said Marjorie Bynum, vice president

for Workforce Development at the Information Technology Association of America.

She recommended creating more and better incentives that extend beyond salary

enhancements, such as recruitment bonuses and paid training and education.

The government should "be more flexible in where and how federal [agencies]

acquire workers," Bynum said. "[It] shouldn't only focus on applicants [with

degrees] but someone with the required skills background, regardless of

where training came from," she said. "This is a practice the private sector

has slowly adopted and should be one that the federal government should

also do."

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