New survey finds retirements, talent shortages hamper state IT shops

In a survey announced this week, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) said that continued declines in the states’ IT workforce will challenge service delivery and productivity in the coming years. Although respondents indicated that the weak economy has kept many workers at their jobs, an “inevitable tsunami of turnover,” should be expected.

According to results of a recent survey, many state CIOs foresee a continued shirking of their state’s IT workforce. The study builds on an issue that gained force a few years ago, when state CIOs had offered anecdotal evidence that states could face a potential shortage of government IT workers in the near future due to anticipated retirements of baby boomers and a waning interest in government IT employment from a younger generation.

The January report, “State IT Workforce: Under Pressure” surveyed forty-two states, finding that nearly two-thirds of state CIOs will have to reduce IT staff in the short-term. At the same time as hiring freezes and the elimination of vacant positions, state CIOs also worry about upcoming retirements and a continued inability to attract top young talent. Nearly a quarter of survey respondents said they predict one-quarter to one-third of their employees will be eligible to retire within the next five years.

“The inevitable wave of baby boomers that will leave the state workforce in the next five years has only compounded the challenges that exist for recruitment and retention of highly qualified IT personnel,” Chad Grant, NASCIO policy analyst and author of the study, said in a statement.

Despite the budget problems facing nearly every state, the recession has had some positive effects: a majority of state CIOs said it has caused many state workers to postpone retirement. And continuing high unemployment has made entry-level positions slightly more attractive, despite nearly 80 percent of state CIOs confirming that state salary rates and pay grade structures presenting a great challenge in attracting and retaining talent.

NASCIO executive director Doug Robinson said, “retirements from of an aging state IT workforce have been a looming issue for the majority of the states and a comparison of NASCIO’s September 2007 findings and our current survey highlights that the recession has only delayed this inevitable tsunami of turnover.”

The top five skills and disciplines presenting the greatest challenge for state CIOs to fill included security, project management, architecture, application and mobile application development and analysis/design.

To read the report in its entirety, click here.

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Terri Jones

This is of course the double-whammy of the downturn, it makes me sad because just when we have many technology tools to improve the day-to-day lives of government staff, we lose some part of our ability to deploy and improve our technology infrastructure. This will move us further down the path of cloud computing and shared services as we try to cope.