Never too late to learn
- By Judi Hasson
- Aug 14, 2000
Like most of his colleagues in government, Tony Nuriddin wanted to keep
his technology skills up-to-date. And the only way to do that was to go
back to school.
So Nuriddin, 34, who has spent 15 years in the Air Force, enrolled
in the government's CIO University information technology certificate program
to maintain proficiency in his field. He worked by day as a communications
and information manager for the Air Force and went to school at night at
George Washington University. The government paid $562 toward the $1,500
cost of each of the 10 courses he took. He paid the rest and went to school
two nights a week for two years to get a certificate to help him further
"I look forward to leaving the military in five years," he said recently.
"In the interim, I will continue to educate myself in order to remain competitive
and prepared for the transition from military life to civilian employment."
Nuriddin is part of a growing number of government workers taking advantage
of government-sponsored courses. And there are many reasons these days to
To combat a chronic shortage of IT workers, the government is financing
educational initiatives to create a more skilled work force. One of the
initiatives, the CIO University, graduated its first class of 18 students
last month. Another initiative, an electronic government fellowship program
for federal workers, will get under way later this year.
"Between government and academia, it's the place where we meet," said Emory
Miller, director for professional IT development at the General Services
Administration. Miller runs the CIO University program, a joint initiative
of the CIO Council and GSA.
Miller said the CIO University philosophy is about integrating government,
not creating more stovepipes, which hampered the delivery of services across
"It is no longer the mainframe in the basement, the server down the
hall," he said. "We do not develop an agency business plan and walk down
the hallway to the IT person's office, knock on the door and say, "Deliver
this.' The IT person should be integral in developing the business plan."
CIO University is a consortium of universities in the Washington, D.C.,
area offering dozens of graduate-level programs to address the needs of
high-tech workers. The courses are designed to teach students to look at
IT in new ways, develop new types of architectures and deliver services
in the most cost-effective manner.
"I find that the adult students know about half of what they need to
know, but they are not sure what half," said Cynthia Shoemaker, program
representative for CIO University at George Washington University.
The second new educational initiative available for government workers
is sponsored by the nonpartisan think tank the Council for Excellence in
Government. The council's new e-government fellows program is modeled after
another council program that has trained government executives in leadership
"Much of it boils down to leadership, personal responsibility for leadership.
These are the risks that we're asking people to take," said Steve Cochran,
director of the Technology Leadership Consortium at the Council for Excellence
Cochran and others recently spent four days at the Ben & Jerry's
Homemade Holdings Inc.'s ice cream headquarters in Vermont. The company
is well-known for its enlightened leadership policies, and the council wanted
to see how government could take advantage of its techniques.
The e-government fellows program — which costs about $10,000 per student — will be funded by federal agencies that nominate fellowship candidates.
Participants will meet about three days a month. "We are carefully balancing
the agencies, from the Defense Department to security agencies and civilian
agencies, to make it a balanced group. We want to be able to cut deals across
government and the research industry," Cochran said.
The first e-fellows will include 25 government employees, people already
in leadership positions, who want to hone their skills in working across
government and the private sector to come up with the best working models
"A CIO is a very different kind of person from agency to agency. A [candidate]
might be in an undersecretary position. At another agency, a [candidate
might be at the] GS-14 level, but in a position to affect policy and budgeting,"
However, participation is not without sacrifices, said Richard Guida, chairman
of the Federal PKI Steering Committee, based at the Treasury Department.
"For any senior executive, whatever time they spend during the day going
to class, they spend the night catching up on what they haven't done. And
that makes it a 12- to 14-hour work day," Guida said.