Army turns to interns, industry for help

Technology-focused internships and hiring people who lost their jobs in 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 the Army's Enterprise Information Systems, said his office has established about 13 technology internships for college students during their summer and winter vacations. "We hope they'll want to stay around" full-time after they graduate, Carroll said.

The internship program is similar to the Army Knowledge Leaders program in the chief information officer's office, Carroll said. 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 a position in the Army.

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

Carroll, speaking at last month's Army Small Computer Program's IT 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 was targeting college students as well as private-sector employees considering a career change.

The Army Materiel 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.

"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."

Myra Howze Shiplett, director of the National Academy of Public Administration's Center for Human Resources Management, said NAPA's research has shown internship programs to be a "very successful recruitment tool," and the Army, in particular, has a strong history of solid intern programs.

"Intern programs are one of the most successful mechanisms for introducing folks to a public service career," said Shiplett, adding that they serve a dual role that benefits both the employer and the intern. "It gives the individual the opportunity to know the organization and to see what kind of work and prospects there are," she said. "And it gives the organization an equal [shot] at assessing an individual's capabilities and interests."

For an industry worker 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, said Fuller, adding that it is targeted at young and midlevel personnel.


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