Uncle Sam Wants Young IT Workers

Ann All

Every time I, or anyone else at IT Business Edge, write about efforts to interest more students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers, we invariably get comments from folks who claim to be veterans of the IT field asking us why we are encouraging kids to pursue what they imply are dead-end careers.


A recent example came when I wrote about Computer Engineer Barbie, a techie version of the iconic doll designed with the aim of letting girls know it's cool to write code. The Society of Women Engineers provided input on the doll. Here are some excerpted comments on that post:

Girls are too smart to go into computer engineering. So many jobs have been outsourced/offshored. The remaining jobs in the US are seeing a rapid decline in salary due to a glut of new graduates, millions of guest workers, and a no-growth economy.
"Bangalore Barbie" has a much better chance than "Silicon-Valley Barbie." Sorry ladies, but your jobs are going to India.
Offshoring and immigration has EVERYTHING to do with this issue. You can make cute little Barbies and provide all the encouragement you want to girls. That is NOT going to change the inevitable outcome in a global economy which is a race to the bottom.

Yet there are IT jobs out there. And some of them are highly unlikely to go to the non-domestic workers that so many of my commenters fault for ruining the IT profession. The U.S. Defense Department, for example, is preparing a new job manual designed to help federal agencies attract the next generation of IT workers. The manual will be published in mid-March.


A Federal News Radio article cites statistics from the Partnership for Public Service, which estimates federal agencies will hire more than 11,500 employees in IT between 2010 and 2012. More than 16,400 federal technology workers will be eligible to retire by 2012. Joyce France, the DoD's director of Chief Information Officer Management Services, says about 33 percent of the 78,000 IT professionals in the military today will be eligible to retire within six years.


Millennials make up just 10 percent of the DoD's work force, a number the agency hopes to increase. Said France:

We are trying to establish a pipeline of students to backfill with those students when this generation retires. We want to make sure we have a good mixture in our work force, not just the baby boomers, but the Net Generation, too.

Earlier this month, more than 425 students from 37 high schools in the Washington metro area visited 34 agencies during the eighth annual IT Job Shadow day. At the DoD, students toured the Pentagon's media center, network management center and data center, and also heard about jobs in 10 different DoD offices.


Government jobs appeared on a short list of sectors in which IT compensation is increasing, along with health care, energy/utilities, defense/aerospace and education. According to the November CIO.com article in which the list appeared, other benefits of working in government IT Include job security, decent pension plans and attractive benefits.


There are limited opportunities for advancement, however, as government IT pros tend to remain in the same roles for long periods. That's no doubt largely due to agencies' bureaucratic management structures, which lead to other work force issues as well, as I wrote last month.


But maybe those structures are beginning to change. A few months back, I cited a Huffington Post item written by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, which claimed there was a "new excitement among federal civil servants," who supposedly now feel more empowered in their jobs, thanks in part to efforts to improve internal collaboration at agencies like the State Department and the Veterans Administration. Those kinds of efforts could also help satisfy millennials' desire for frequent communication with managers and other coworkers, something not often stressed in government jobs.

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