Survey reconfirms IT staffing woes
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Sep 04, 2000
Preliminary results from a special study of information technology salaries
in the federal government show that agencies are having almost as much trouble
retaining IT workers as they are recruiting them.
The Office of Personnel Management received about 39 agency responses
to its memorandum asking for IT staffing data and is analyzing the results.
Based on initial results, OPM found that "recruitment problems rated only
slightly more severe than retention problems," said an official in OPM's
Pay and Leave Administration Division, who spoke on background.
The preliminary data showed there is no significant difference in the
average ratings of recruitment and retention problems by specialty or work
level within the IT sector, the OPM official said.
OPM initiated the study of the salaries of government IT workers earlier
this year, at the request of agencies that were asking for additional pay
flexibility to recruit and retain IT workers. In May it sent out a memo
to agencies asking them to provide data and views related to the IT staffing
The memo asked for staffing, turnover, vacancy and quit rates for IT
employees primarily in the GS-334 position, which is the computer specialist
However, the study also includes other IT-related series of jobs. OPM
asked agencies to rate the severity of their IT staffing problems based
on each specialty and geographic area.
Perhaps not surprisingly, OPM found that agencies have more trouble
recruiting and retaining systems and software engineers and information
systems security personnel than they do customer support personnel. San
Francisco and Washington, D.C., ranked among the areas where agencies have
the hardest time recruiting and retaining IT staff.
OPM plans to use the results to develop a special salary schedule or
schedules for IT personnel in the government. It's possible that OPM will
execute the change in two or more stages starting this fall, which will
allow it to address the greatest needs first, according to the OPM official.
However, it is still unclear what positions and locations will be included.
There is little disagreement that there is an IT workforce crisis in
government, and better compensation will go a long way toward alleviating
the problem. But although compensation is important to attract and keep
people, other issues, such as training programs and employee/supervisor
relationships, are just as important, according to Fred Thompson, program
manager for IT workforce improvement at the Treasury Department.
It will likely take a combination of actions to solve the government's
IT workforce shortage, Thompson said.
"We need to set some targets, try to pull together subject matter experts,"
he said. Describing IT occupations in government better will help agencies
determine where the needs are. Until recently, the federal IT workforce
has been stable, Thompson said. But this is changing as the demand for IT
workers grows and supply stays low.
The country will need 1.3 million new core IT workers by 2006, but not
enough people are graduating with the skills needed to meet the demand,
In addition, about half of the federal IT workforce will be eligible
for early retirement starting around 2006, and replacement numbers are low.
And the skills set is changing, with fewer unique applications, more hardware
and software consistency, and allegiance to a specialty vs. an employer.
This results in more worker mobility, Thompson said.
"We're in a very different environment," he said. "People can move from
public to private more easily than you could [before]."