Governments Worry Over Lack of IT Talent

Federal and state government agencies facing an IT talent shortage are struggling to deal with an IT talent pipeline that is rapidly drying out, according to a report by Washington-based Freedman Consulting.

U.S. Capitol“Technology talent is a key need in government and civil society, but the current state of the pipeline is inadequate to meet that need,” the report says. “The bad news is that existing institutions and approaches are insufficient to build and sustain this pipeline, particularly in the face of sharp for-profit competition.”

That competition comes from Silicon Valley, with its bevy of perks from free food to on-site car care to cool work environments, not mention heftier paychecks. But Politico also points to an inherent difference in attitude among IT workers in the Valley verses those in D.C. Namely, the willingness in California to “run with ideas and ‘break things'” compared to D.C.’s more cautious approach of following protocols and getting chain-of-command signoffs.

The challenges in attracting talent to the public sector will likely become greater as baby boomers prepare to retire. Partly because of that, the D.C. area is considered to have strong growth potential for IT jobs.

From the employer’s point of view, things aren’t all bleak, the Freedman report notes. It suggests that the need for tech talent can be addressed through a multifaceted approach that pays attention to training and retention as well as recruiting.  But that does seem a tall order given the difficultly in altering the human mindset, especially when you’re dealing with cultures as distinct as Washington and Silicon Valley.

35 Responses to “Governments Worry Over Lack of IT Talent”

  1. jelabarre

    Besides; living in Washington DC??? I’d hate that almost as much as living in NYC. And don’t think I’d care for the political bent of Silican Valley. As much as there aren’t many (or any) jobs in the Hudson Valley, would rather be here if the alternative is one of those other places.

  2. There’s not really a talent shortage, the problem is with the Federal Government’s mindset.
    The same problem exists for State and Local governments and a lot of corporations as well.
    They have to get out of what I like to call a “Dickensian” Mentality. What I mean by that is this
    outmoded 19th century idea that employees MUST be “onsite” and “heads down” busy at their desks. There are still too many managers who want to “hold” on to “head count” and large office
    Despite all of the beautiful landscaped corporate campuses, Starbuck Kiosks, ATM stations and
    other amenities, you’re still asking people to physically commute to these edifices wasting up to
    4 hours a day in travel time.
    There are plenty of highly talented people IF these agencies and corporations are willing to “Think outside the box” .
    Telecommuting IS the answer. The network infrastructure and bandwidth is already available
    in most parts of the country.
    All it takes is some “moxie” on the part of management to make the change.
    To quote Admiral Farragut “…Damn the torpedoes! ..Full speed ahead!..”
    Stop agonizing over “potential” problems and just do it! make adjustments as required.

  3. Most of the GOVT projects entertain only Citizen/GC candidates only, so people with H1B cannot apply to these jobs. Now the trend is in such a way that, even if a H1B candidate come across a Technical position he simply ignore if the requirement has a word FEDERAL.

  4. Johnny Appleseed

    The employee treatment is horrible, to many chiefs and not enough Indians. The technology is outdated and no money for training. I lot of fat cats sitting on top, don’t know what you know. But is your manager. under-staff and overwork.

  5. Brent Hughes

    I currently work in IT-Healthcare and it is almost as bad as the Government…position and pay wise. However; the Government does operate from a much stricter policies and procedures. It is up to the individual but I prefer change management for everything so would jump at the opportunity to work for the Government. However; not able to relocate…well unless it was a Technology position with the CIA or along those lines. The perks are nice in CA and with top name vendors and companies throwing money at you, but most of those are short lived so you have to plan wisely if you go that route. Get in and get out approach. That talent comes full circle from CA to DC when the economy hits a bump.

  6. There is no shortage of IT talent in this country. Since 2002, I’ve applied for a great many IT jobs through the USAJobs website, which is supposed to be the one and only central site for any and all fedral government jobs LOL. But do they hire me? no. Not one. Something is wrong with their entire hiring practice if on the one hand they are turning talanet away, and on the other hand crying about a lack of talent.

    If there is anything mundane and lacking in my abilities and experience, it is in simply getting hired…even for flipping burgers.

    I’ve applied to even a few “spy agencies” that are supposedly busy doing all kinds of work with high-end state-of-the-art supercomputers…..yet I just got yet another ‘update’ from the agency saying they couldn’t identify any job openings that would fit my background. As in every other part of our federal government, it seems their entire hiring infrasturcture is broken.

      • J Winters

        This is very true. On top of that, the salaries are not competitive. Agencies want certifications and advanced degree but offer starting paid in the range of $80,000 to $90,000 when contractor salaries are $100,000 to $110,000 and beyond.

  7. Roderick

    Steve, I definitely agree with you on this. I think that their higher procedures involve ALOT of the buddy system and they tend to hire prior military who is of a friend of a friend that most of the times aren’t the best candidate for the jobs.

  8. Really, Steve. Because if you have applied for so many you should have got referral at list one. I understand not getting hired part..umm may be they are looking at different skill set


    Has anyone on DICE actually been hired by the Federal Government directly? Can you share with us how many hours it took to get through the application process? Once you had an interview, how long did it take to get an offer and start work?

  10. Heath Harris

    I have went through college, and have done a number of things outside of that learning experience. I have applied for meany jobs, but have yet to see anyone respond with more than a email saying their were better candidates. If there is truly a lack of talent why is no one hiring fresh graduates from college. If things keep going this way I will probably start my own company that i run out of my house just so i can work in the field that I love.

  11. I have to say i agree with steve, usajobs is a waste of time. I disagree with roderick though about them hiring military vets, cause i’m a vet, a lot of my friends are vets and we’ve had the same experience with site.

  12. I also tried USA jobs once. Didn’t find anything near Richmond, Va where I live that was in software development. I logged in today, and within 50 miles of Richmond, Va, there is ONE job for an IT project manager.

    I guess you have to live in DC to work in software dev for the government. I also noticed some really strange requirements. You must be a veteran or a current government employee, etc. Salaries are “OK” but not that great. I can earn more in the private sector, although I don’t get government benefits.

    Meanwhile, I can post my resume on Dice or other websites and 70-80 percent of the jobs are ok with working from home or travel, and I get from 1 to 5 recruiters from Linked in contacting me each week.

    If the Fed’s can’t find anyone, perhaps its because they have the old school mentality that you have to be onsite in an office every single day. Instead of being flexible and understanding the “world” has changed a bit and sitting in an office up in DC doesn’t automatically = more productivity.

  13. I worked IT for over 30 years, I worked at a major financial institution for many years.
    I can tell you 1st hand why this is happening,
    Corporate greed, by outsourcing all of the good jobs to H1B & foreign interest.
    As a result why would you want your kids to enter this field when their jobs will be exported as well, besides who will pay for the expensive student loans if Americans are not working.
    On the other hand what I see now from the few interviews I went to, I am being interviewed
    by none the less the H1B visa managers, the ranks were infiltrated and now they are only hiring their own. (how could that be? very simple legislator are allowing this to happen by catering to
    corporate greed)
    In the IT world there are various disciplines of technology and each one deals with a different
    aspects of IT. with that said educational institutions are not building good technical people.
    They are teaching are kids things that they will never use in the business world.
    And yet they got the balls to charge some very high prices for education, while at the same time
    they are turning out idiots.
    Technology evolves and it is dynamic in nature, we must remain alert and always keep our selves sharp, however that is no good either when our legislatures are allowing big institutions to sell us out to 3rd world countries.
    This is a deeply rooted issue in our country, they sold our steel industry, manufacturing, garments, shoes, now IT skilled workers, what else is next.
    It is complete hopeless. Reinvent your self and do something else.
    God bless AMERICA. and kick them all out.

  14. I don’t see how there is a shortage of talent. I’ve been out of work for 18 months, have a very broad knowledge base across IT and have applied for over 3,000 jobs. Still no job. I am over 55 and that, along with the fact that I’ve been out of the workforce for over 18 months makes me untouchable. I have been willing to relocate anywhere in the United States at 1/3 of my previous salary.

    • rkwp1756:

      I attended a Federal Jobs jobfair once while I was still working on my degree. I was assured by one recruiter that the federal government never discriminates against older workers in it’s hiring practices. Being older myself, it was reassuring at the time.

  15. Number 1. USAJobs is terrible.

    Number 2. The Government IS all buddy system (part of what is wrong with the country)…i know i worked with customs for a while and talked with a CIA recruiter before wanted to hire me. (I didn’t want to move up to Virginia)

    and Number 3. In response to Steve and Roderick…as well as a couple others. The Government is what it is, its nothing more than a regulatory body of control. They like ex-military for one reason, they already know they have some control over your mindset. I doubt they want another Snowden incident.

    • I was once at a Defense-related jobs fair that Dice held locally to me. After making the rounds to several vendors, I stood in one long line before I went home. When I finally got to talk to the representative there, he said he could only hire people who already had a secuirty clearance. He already had a few people he’d hired without clearances, and that he was having to create non-secret make-work projects to keep them occupied until the 2-year waiting period was over and they received their clearances. I asked him what might speed up obtaining a clearance, and he simply said ex-military.

      That said, if the government likes to hire ex-military so much, then the VA OUGHT to bend over backwards (double) to help the ex-military instead of finding incredible reasons to not lift a finger. I’ve heard complaints from friends, relatives, and just people in general always complaining about the VA….I’ve heard them all my life. Yopu’d think after 50 years the complaints would die-down.

      RE: Snowden: he was semi ex-military. As I recall, there was some published background information that said he washed-out of basic training when he brok both his legs. And then he went on to some other government positions. He was _just_ a network administrator, sp probably any idiot who can install Windows or Linux could probablay have had a similar job.

  16. There is NO shortage of IT talent in the U.S. There may be a shortage of U.S. IT talent WILLING TO WORK FOR A GOVERNMENT, but outside of government, there is no TRUE shortage. The talent pool is endless if organizations are willing to pay people what they’re worth AND are willing to hire people over the age of 40. That’s the REAL reason all of you journalists keep insisting there’s a “shortage”.

  17. I work in IT for a state university. My coworkers and I feel that the issues government employers face is a lack of budget over all. Specifically, training budgets are practically non-existent. This combined with lacking salary budgets creates a situation where the issue isn’t a shortage of candidates as a whole, but a shortage of candidates that meet certain desired criteria: cheap and not expecting training opportunities. If you’re highly skilled and not getting calls to government jobs, it’s probably because they have other candidates that are less skilled, but could do the job ‘well enough’ and they can pay them less. If you are a fresh graduate, you’d think you would be prime material for the cheap criteria, but you are still not able to compete with those who have *some* experience and/or skills, so you lose. There’s no shortage of IT professionals seeking employment, as someone else mentioned, but there is a shortage of IT professionals seeking employment that will meet government budgetary constraints.

  18. The issue is that there is no shortage of IT talent in the US. What we have to determine, is why they are not hiring all that talent. The projects have to get done, but they seem to want to continue building the myth that they can’t find the talent they need. Is IT running into the same mentality that is trying to break the back of the unions and the Post Office? Is all of this, just to put us in a position that we have to take whatever they want to hand out?

    • I don’t know of any IT unions, so I can’t imagine that there would be any efforts to break one. Perhaps the Telecommunications Union, but I don’t know if they even exist as I’ve not heard them talked about in decades.

  19. DBA w/ 24 yrs experience gets outsourced to Indian Co. Just joined the unemployed.
    Let’s fix the real problem. The CxO’s who get brought in to FIX the the books, need to have their
    follies follow them. Ours jumped ship 1 month prior to largest outsourcing in our companies history.
    Just to join another company who hired him to do the same again. The ramifications and results of
    what he started won’t follow him as long as the “Board”s are turning a blind eye to what it does to
    their company in the long run. Board members should only be allowed to serve on one board at a time with NO conflicts of interest anywhere. Either revoke the corporation as a person or enforce it to everyone making the decisions.

  20. Most “work” done in government IT is done by contractors (the usual suspects, IBM, Accenture, Cognizant, and oh yes, CGI). And those contractors have far fewer benefits than the government “employees”. There is NO shortage, believe me.

  21. I agree with most of the comments above. I’ve worked on government contracts for the past 15 years. I have a lot of comments and theories…. but, I do think the government makes a real crappy place to work and accomplishes very very little. They are managed by a lot of people who have no idea what they are doing… they just follow protocol. I was a developer and was interrupted 20 times a day for a meeting, to update progress, to discuss one of my other many concurrent projects. YOU CANT DO THAT TO A CODER. But it was mandatory that I update status of every step I took… CRAZY. The governments IT will all be like the Obamacare website … crap code… and we don’t want crap code responsible for firing our missles and defending our country.

  22. I worked for the state. I see very few federal jobs listed. I do not believe there is a lack of talent only that that talent is not being hired. There are limited jobs and plenty of candidates. I was laid off as a Project Manager when clearly there was a demand for Project Managers. It’s ridiculous to say there aren’t people for the jobs; there may not be enough people with the exact skills needed, but just like in the old days-those who only need some additional training can be hired and brought up to speed. It’s strange that few employers are willing to do that even for their own staff. They would rather lay someone off who has a lot of institutional knowledge than train them in a few additional skills. I spoke with a Director at an engineering firm and he said that they often put job ads out and don’t hire. Only if the perfect candidate comes along will they hire. What ever happened to promoting from within? Maybe the jobs that are open are so specialized that no one can fill them and the companies would rather continue working their staff double time than spend money to hire less than perfect candidates. What a conundrum!