Survey finds older IT employees

Clinger-Cohen Assessment Survey 2003

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The federal information technology workforce is an aging group that may need a boost in skills such as capital planning and investment management, according to report released today.

The Clinger-Cohen Assessment Survey was conducted in September 2003 to determine the composition of the IT workforce and identify potential skill gaps. The survey was conducted by the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for IT Committee to initiate workforce planning and find areas that need development. Nearly 20,000 IT workers responded, representing about 26 percent of the federal civilian IT population.

Based on the responses, the typical federal IT employee has the following characteristics:

Between 46 and 50 years old.

At a general schedule 13 level.

More than 20 years' government experience.

Little or no private-sector experience.

Likely to retire in the next 10 to 20 years.

May leave the organization in the next three years, but not necessarily leave the federal government.

"There appears to be an aging IT workforce with few younger individuals to replace the older ones," the survey analysis states. "Although the workforce is aging, it appears that those closest to retirement do not plan on retiring when they are eligible."

The survey also rated workers' proficiency in certain general and technical competencies, such as configuration management and telecommunications. Among the top-ranking competencies that workers assessed as having intermediate or greater proficiency were hardware (67 percent), configuration management (65 percent) and operating systems (64 percent). Scoring lower, with between 16 percent and 25 percent having great proficiency, were artificial intelligence and embedded computers, the survey states.

In the area of general competencies needed by most personnel regardless of function, interpersonal skills rated the highest among the competencies, with 90 percent of respondents having intermediate or greater proficiency. Problem solving was a close second with 89 percent, and contracting and procurement came in last with 44.5 percent.

Among workers eligible for retirement in the next three years, the survey shows areas that may be impacted by their departure, led by configuration management, hardware and project management as areas of technical competencies likely to suffer. Similarly, interpersonal skills, problem solving and oral communication were the top three general competencies likely to impacted, the survey found.

It also examined IT-related skills proficiencies, showing word processing, e-mail and spreadsheet software among the top 10 highest-rated skills. Among the lower-scoring skills were biometrics, with 9 percent, and capability maturity models, with 13.4 percent.

Proficiencies in the competency areas scored higher than the skill areas, the survey shows, indicating that workers may be able to handle large jobs without needing to know how a particular technology works. It may also mean that they have not received proper training in certain technology areas, the survey analysis states.

"Certain competencies -- capital planning and investment management, contracting and procurement, and financial management -- and skills -- federal enterprise architecture, biometrics and portal development -- that related to high-priority specialized job activities, as well as the evolving mission needs of the federal government, may need development," the survey states.

Finally, the survey outlines several recommendations for the CIO Council's workforce committee in collaboration with the Office of Personnel Management:

Perform governmentwide strategic workforce planning.

Incorporate workforce elements into the federal enterprise architecture.

Continue to develop the IT workforce through career development and guidelines for experience, certification, training and education.

Devise knowledge management strategies.


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