Army tackles workforce challenges

Technology-focused internships and hiring people left unemployed by the dot-com fallout are two of the main ways the Army is attempting to address its current and future information technology workforce shortage.

Kevin Carroll, program executive officer of Enterprise Information Systems, said his office has established about 13 technology-focused internships for college students during their summer and winter holiday vacations. "We hope they'll want to stay around" full-time after they graduate, Carroll said, adding that the program is similar to the Army Knowledge Leaders program in the chief information officer's office.

The Army Knowledge Leaders program offers intensive training to handpicked, outstanding scholars — some fresh out of college, others with work experience — through two years of academic, technical and leadership training, all paid for by the Army. Upon completion of the program, the interns are given an Army position.

The program has eight interns this year and plans to hire the same number next year.

Carroll, speaking April 24 at the Army Small Computer Program's information technology conference in Reno, Nev., said his office also has been "hiring people from the private sector lately," mostly former dot-com employees.

Col. Mary Fuller, director of the Army's Acquisition Support Center (ASC), said her office is targeting college students as well as private-sector employees considering a career change.

If an industry worker is interested in a government acquisition position, the Army will put together an Acquisition Career Record Brief, which outlines that person's work, certification and education history, and lets them know what types of jobs they qualify for, Fuller said, adding that it is targeted at young and mid-level personnel.

The Army Material Command has a summer internship program focused on IT jobs. It enables students to accumulate hours during the course of a few years, and if they hit a certain threshold, it puts them on the fast track to be hired full time, Fuller said. Other scholarship programs target future scientists and engineers, she said.

"We're not looking for history majors here," Fuller told Federal Computer Week. "We're looking for engineers, computer scientists and other young, technical people to educate them about government work."

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prompted some people who were considering retirement to stick around to be part of the "exciting things going on in the [Defense Department] and the Army," which has also temporarily helped lessen the workforce shortage, Fuller said.

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