D.C.’s Aging Tech Workforce Needs Millennials

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In September, Google executive Megan Smith became the third Federal Chief Technology Officer—an appointment that qualified as D.C.’s biggest hiring news of late.

“It’s not exclusively focused on IT,” Smith wrote in a statement about her new role. “It’s focused on all the technology opportunity ahead for our country and for ourselves. So, it could be energy-related or basic science-related or innovations in biology—all those areas.”

Click here to find a tech job in Washington D.C.

Smith also noted that there are 1.4 million jobs coming in the IT and technology sectors, but only 400,000 Americans qualified to fill them. “How do we attract our young people?” she asked. “How do we make those jobs available to the extraordinarily talented veterans who are returning from serving? How do we make them available to all American citizens who could train for them?”

All good questions, and positions are certainly available. “The D.C. technology job market is hot,” said Heather Raines, D.C.-based recruiting director for Randstad Technologies. “The unemployment rate for IT in the D.C. metro area remains nearly non-existent, making it truly a candidates’ market.”

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But where are the young job hunters? The federal IT workforce is aging. FCW reported in August that 48 percent of federal IT workers are over the age of 50, and 32 percent will be eligible for retirement by 2017. Millennials aged 32 and younger make up just 10 percent of the current workforce. “The federal government cannot afford to continue to under-represent this critical group, not only because of upcoming retirement shifts but also because this ‘digital-first’ generation has the potential to bring significant technical innovation to the delivery of government services,” FCW wrote.

Meanwhile, federal tech workers continue to keep their eyes on three slow-moving bills that may alter the government’s tech landscape and the jobs it creates:

And speaking of security, the federal Office of Personnel Management will end its huge contract with USIS, the security clearance contractor that was targeted in August by a cyberattack. That attack compromised the personal files of 25,000 government workers. The company, which has 3,000 employees, actually spun out of OPM during a privatization push and had been responsible for vetting the five million government workers who require national security clearances. The fact that one of those workers was Edward Snowden was another black eye for the company.

Skills in Demand

“Healthcare, financial services, nonprofits, real estate, and construction are booming for tech professionals in the D.C. area,” said Chris Brinkman, regional manager of IT recruiting firm Robert Half Technology. “Employers are looking to fill roles for network engineers, Web developers (Java, .NET), IT security, and help desk/desktop support professionals. Over the past six months, we’ve seen opportunities relating to Web and network security increase as well.”

Randstad’s Raines said that mobile Web developers, Ruby on Rails experts, network security experts, and cloud engineers are in demand: “Additionally, many companies are upgrading ERP systems such as PeopleSoft, MS Dynamics and SAP/Business Objects and moving from outdated technologies toward the open source market.”

Fifty-nine percent of the Washington, D.C., tech executives surveyed by Robert Half said that network administration is among the skill sets in greatest demand within their IT departments, followed by desktop support and database management. Local recruiters also see continuing demand for software developers.

According to IT recruiting firm Mondo’s 2014-2015 Salary Guide, the top three skills currently in demand in Washington are application and software development, e-commerce, and database management.

Salary Trends

According to the 2014-2013 Dice Salary Survey, the average salary for a Washington D.C.-based IT professional is $97,588, unchanged from the previous year and 11 percent above the national average of $87,811.

TechAmerica’s Cyberstates 2013 report found that D.C.’s tech workers (including those in the surrounding regions of Maryland and Virginia) earned an annual average wage of $102,000, ranking fifth among all states and 106 percent higher than Virginia’s average private sector wage. Robert Half Technology reports that 22 percent of Washington, D.C.-area technology executives expect to expand their IT teams in the second half of 2014, up an impressive nine points from the previous survey; another 66 percent plan to hire only for open IT roles. “We see a considerable increase in needs for temporary or contract-to-hire placements from October to early December,” Brinkman noted.

According to Mondo, Data Scientists, Data Virtualization Engineers, and Cloud Engineers are currently seeing the largest salary jumps.

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11 Responses to “D.C.’s Aging Tech Workforce Needs Millennials”

  1. I am far from being a millenial but I have to stick up for them. How do you expect millenenials to fill the jobs left open when people like me retire someday. A resume does not even get a second glance without years of experience on it. Companies are competing for a shrinking pool of IT workers of which millenials are an insignificant number. Companies would rather steal from each other than create more.

  2. Ronald Reidy

    The biggest problem these agencies have is they cannot compete with the salary market. I worked for a DoD contractor and when the DoD mandated LCTA (lowest cost, technically acceptable) contract awards in 2012/2013, the company that won the contract I worked on came in and cut salaries and benefits (my personal pay/benefits cut was well over $30k/year). I ended up leaving within a year because of this and other issues with the new company, and it is highly unlikely I would ever consider working for a government contractor or within a government agency ever again.

    The other problem they have is the bureaucracy within the government. It takes too long to make decisions, and too many people within organizations have too much direct influence on systems design decisions. This influence usually leads to inconsistent requirements and poor communication about systems capabilities.

    Until and unless the government changes its policies, the government will not be able to attract top talent.

  3. What about those of us who aren’t right out of college?. There are a ton of folks that have experience and years ahead of them that they need to work but we seem to be forgotten. I would love to be able to take advantage of some of the training programs. I am much more likely to stay long term at a company now than I was when I was twenty.

  4. K Street

    DC is a great place to work. I lived there for many years and still miss it (however, I don’t miss the traffic and the pollution!). I worked for a federal consulting firm and had the opportunity to work with federal clients, which I really enjoyed. However, the federal government has a lot of internal politics that I don’t think a lot of “millennials” are suited for, honestly. In many meetings, most everyone is dressed in a suit (it’s DC after all!) or at least a tie (suits go for women as well!). Millennials seem to thrive in companies such as Google, Yahoo, etc. where there’s free food and you can wear jeans to work. This is a stark contrast to the federal agency that doesn’t turn on its water fountains due to budget cuts and if you’d like to have water during your work day, you have to contribute monthly to the water fund! Younger employees also have to work harder to prove themselves in an environment where seniority rules, no matter how great their technical skills may be and this can be daunting. There are some very good federal agencies out there, but working with and for the federal government is more about building and leaning on relationships, rather than how great your coding skills are. If the federal gov’t wants to bring millennials into their workforce, they also have to change their mindset, i.e. turn on the water fountains, let folks wear jeans, provide helpful mentors, etc. Just my humble opinion 🙂

    • Why oh why oh why would anyone want to work either as a government employee or as a contactor? It can only be for one thing and one thing only…….the federal government is growing like weeds and is the best source of steady work.

  5. “Smith also noted that there are 1.4 million jobs coming in the IT and technology sectors, but only 400,000 Americans qualified to fill them”. Spoken like a typical arrogant Google type, and one who wants even more H-1B’s. Google is tied to the federal government at the hip. There is NO shortage of qualified IT professionals in the US. Stay away from uber expensive, uber arrogant, uber oppressive DC.

  6. Wow, seriously? I live in San Francisco, and have the opposite problem. I am over 50 and can’t get a job in mobile software development because I am not 30 and don’t ride a skateboard. Want to know where all the millenials IT people are? They are here, in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

  7. There are plenty of IT professionals available, the problem is that there skill set is not always the “latest and greatest” languages or utilities that employers want. For example, there are lots of Java/J2EE positions out there, but if you have the Java, and not the J2EE, you are out of luck. Getting the training for these skills is expensive and time consuming, especially for those trying to maintain a work/life balance. The Washington, DC area is also very expensive place to live compared to many other areas of the United States (http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/) , which doesn’t help either.

    • Blacque Jacques Shellacque

      You can test the veracity of one of Megan Smith’s questions regarding future positions: “How do we make them available to all American citizens who could train for them?”

      If she’s serious about that, she’ll be willing to consider anyone, regardless of their age.

  8. if there is 1.4 million IT jobs then why am i competing against 8 other people for a entry level position? i guess some of those are in places people would rather not relocate to, or the position is picky, like you have to possess an a+ cert and know systems center on windows server.