Panel seeks changes in IT pay, job structure

Revise, recruit and retain should continue to be the government's mantra when it comes to the federal information technology workforce, according to a report released last week by the Chief Information Officers Council.

The report, released at the Interagency Resources Management Conference in Williamsburg, Va., advised agencies to focus on workforce planning, recruitment and retention, and career development for IT professionals. It outlined current initiatives underway at the Office of Personnel Management and other agencies to attract talented workers into the information technology field and revamp outdated classification systems.

"The federal government faces tremendous challenges in employing and paying its civilian IT workforce. Chief among them are disparate pay levels and an inflexible and outdated occupational structure," said the report.

The CIO Council advised OPM to continue its effort to revise the classification and qualification standards for federal IT jobs in an effort to more accurately describe the kind of work involved in each position. In July, OPM issued a memorandum for agency classification chiefs directing them to review and comment on draft standards by Oct. 20. The CIO Council, OPM and agency personnel directors are also looking at establishing special salary rate schedules for IT professionals to recruit and retain more workers.

The council's report encouraged agencies to expand their labor pools and recruit more women, minorities, mid-career technical professionals and people with disabilities into the IT workforce. The council suggested agencies take advantage of existing hiring flexibilities, including two executive orders issued in July. Executive Order 13162, creates a federal intern program, and Executive Order 13163 directs agencies to hire more disabled workers.

The council recommended the government launch an aggressive marketing campaign encouraging college students to pursue federal IT careers. The Commerce Department is already partnering with a Hollywood-based nonprofit organization for a series of public service announcements that encourage students to study math and science to prepare for technical careers.

Agencies must also continue to develop and upgrade the IT skills of its current workforce, the report said. The council suggested mandating a basic level of computer competence for all federal employees and eliminating restrictions on agencies' ability to pay for degrees or certifications.

The report raised the possibility of creating a CIO executive exchange program, under which agencies to exchange senior IT executives for different assignments. The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Governmentwide Ethics are currently working on a draft executive order for that program.

The CIO Council, established by an executive order in 1996, is comprised of chief information officers and deputy CIOs from federal agencies. The group makes recommendations on IT management policies and assesses the needs of the government's IT workforce.

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