Stuck in stovepipes
Letter to the editor
As a current member of the civil service, I am appalled that there is any
mention of an IT personnel shortage. Part of the problem is that the civil
service sector "stovepipes," labeling current civil servants into a career
program. Once you are in a field, you really can't get out of it.
I am currently in the finance field and have been very successful. I previously
volunteered to develop a database system for my agency command. Due to a
contract problem, the personnel that were to program and build the system
were not available. I was able to build the program and, with the help of
others, get the system up and running.
Needless to say, I loved working on that program. I found it challenging
and rewarding. I followed up by taking courses and attempting to stay current
within the IT field.
As exhilarating as that experience was, I have been unsuccessful in getting
a job within the IT community. I have had a few interviews. The feedback
I get from these interviews is that I did a great interview, but I don't
have the extensive experience they are looking for. One of the questions
that always comes up is about the cut in pay I would take from my current
position to a beginning computer position.
I completely understand that in order to move to a new field in which I
do not have a great deal of expertise, I will take a pay cut. I consider
it paying my dues. For the other jobs, the government wants people that
already are at full journeyman level. In the finance field, I expect to
have to train any new personnel that I hire, even if they are at the journeyman
level, because my agency and department have specific rules and regs that
may not be the industry standard.
At one point in my career, my agency took blue-collar workers and retrained
them to fill financial positions. Some of those workers were the best financial
folks I've ever seen. I do not feel that there really is a current IT personnel
shortage, particularly since this community has not exhausted all avenues
for quality personnel.
Currently, private-sector companies have found that people with no previous
IT experience can be very successful within the IT community. Why has the
current talent pool within civil service been overlooked? We are more likely
to stay within the government service, have already established good work
ethics and are stable workers.
Before allowing visas and green cards for foreign workers, how about trying
the current workforce? There is a currently untapped resource sitting right
before government managers. Instead of discouraging it, why not use it to
their advantage? Or will it be business as usual?