IT workers to receive pay hike
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Nov 05, 2000
Beginning in January, tens of thousands of information technology professionals
in the federal government will receive a pay raise, the Office of Personnel
Management announced Nov. 3.
The salary increase is an effort to attract IT workers to the federal
government and retain them. The government increasingly finds itself losing
out in competition with industry for talent in today's tight labor market.
The pay hike will range from 7 percent to 33 percent and will affect
about 33,000 federal workers who will be placed in a special salary schedule.
The raise affects all people in the computer specialist, computer engineer
and computer scientist occupations.
The lower grade levels will receive the higher increases because agencies
have more difficulty hiring people for entry-level positions than for higher-level
positions. Consequently, the special pay adjustments will affect federal
IT workers in the GS-5 through GS-12 grades. OPM hopes that by bringing
in new people, agencies will have a continuous stream of qualified workers
who will be able to fill senior positions later.
OPM will announce how the raises translate into dollars as soon as the
White House decides how it will apply the anticipated 3.7 percent across-the-board
increase for federal workers. The IT increase will be added to employees'
OPM Director Janice Lachance said the raise provides "a shot of adrenaline"
to agencies struggling to attract skilled, high-tech employees. Better pay,
in combination with a strong benefits package, places the government on
a par with other employers, she said. The move should help attract recent
college graduates to government.
"We do know what kids coming out of four years of college are being
offered, and it's significantly more than what we've been able to offer,"
said Karen Hogan, acting deputy chief information officer at the Commerce
Department. "A little bit of raise on salary isn't enough difference to
make a hiring decision. [But] at the higher end of the [percentage] scale,
it will significantly help us to attract entry-level people."
Attracting younger, skilled workers should also help fill gaps that
will be left by aging IT workers leaving government. In March, 55 percent
of computer specialists, computer engineers and computer scientists were
45 or older. Only about 10 percent were under 35.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that it could
hire technical workers quicker when it was allowed to offer more competitive
salaries for certain positions, said Helen Wood, director of the Office
of Satellite Data Processing and Distribution at NOAA.
"If I offer a job and the pay is too low, I have to keep advertising
[that position] over and over," Wood said.
However, pay remains just one part of the problem. "There is a tightness
in the market which translates into shortages," Wood said. "Being able to
offer more competitive salaries will make a difference, but we need a larger
source of supply nationally."
The salary increases are long overdue, said one computer specialist
who asked not to be named. "The differences between federal salaries and
private-sector salaries for IT work have been especially large in certain
areas, such as the D.C. suburbs," he said.
However, the increases may not be enough. "If your goal is parity, federal
IT wages need [to be] raised about 15 percent," he said. "If your goal is
attracting top quality people, federal IT wages need [to be] raised about