WASHINGTON (05/02/2000) - For many agencies, the next generation of IT leaders is already toiling among their ranks, but with the projected exodus of IT workers during the next five years, other agencies will need to attract new talent.

The government traditionally has faced monumental obstacles competing with the private sector for IT workers -- such as major salary discrepancies, fewer perks and complex, bureaucratic hiring processes -- but the Office of Personnel Management is poised to launch an initiative geared to help agencies recruit and retain IT workers.

To compete with the allure of the private sector, OPM has launched an IT pilot with 11 federal agencies -- including the Labor Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Treasury Department and the General Services Administration -- to help OPM develop new IT job titles and associated competencies, adjust salaries, tweak benefits packages and speed up hiring practices. OPM is building an online system for the pilot agencies to use to access candidate resumes and allow candidates to take required tests online.

The agency plans to "completely restructure" the IT pay scale, according to the official. In addition, OPM plans to add more flexibility to federal IT work schedule, to allow employees more flexibility to balance work and family.

Although the skills and characteristics of this next generation of IT leaders in the government may differ from their counterparts who grew up in the mainframe era, it is clear that their roles within their agencies will be equally important, if not more so.

At NASA, for example, the traditional government viewpoint of IT workers or non-IT workers does not fit because IT skills are intrinsic to the entire work force, said Dabney Hibbert, manager of NASA's IT Workforce Program.

"Our scientists and engineers, whose use of IT is essential to their job responsibilities, would not describe themselves as IT workers," Hibbert said.

"However, no matter their job classification, NASA envisions its next generation of employees with an even higher level of IT skills to facilitate their job responsibilities."

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