More than 84,000 federal employees are in the 2210 job series for information technology. The number of employees who work as IT specialists, IT project managers or in the areas of applications software, network services and systems administration has been fairly flat over the last five years. From September 2012 to September 2016, agencies have increased by just over 1,400 employees.
This slow growth comes as the dependence on and spending for technology has increased rapidly.
It’s easy to see, the supply is far from keeping up with demand.
This is why the CIO Council, the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget are hosting a hiring fair Nov. 6-7 in Silver Spring, Maryland to make it easier to hire IT professionals in the GS-7-to-15 grade levels.
A senior administration official said agencies have repeatedly criticized the federal hiring process for taking too long. The official, who briefed the press ahead of the announcement and requested anonymity, said having an enterprisewide approach to hiring these important and hard-to-find positions just made sense.
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The council, OMB and OPM kicked off the hiring fair on Sept. 15 by releasing three governmentwide job announcements:
The job announcements will remain open through Sept. 29, or if the number of applicants reaches 1,000 per announcement. The official said if applicants miss the deadline, they will not be left out of the opportunity, but just will not have the opportunity to participate in the Nov. 6-7 event.
Joyce Hunter, a former deputy CIO for policy and planning at the Agriculture Department, said anything to make the process move faster will help.
“You could put a job announcement out on USAJobs and half the time, the people are gone you wanted because we took too long,” said Hunter, who now is CEO of Vulcan Enterprises LLC, an IT consulting and strategic management firm. “If agencies are able to shorten that timeline, it would be extremely important.”
The official said more than 20 agencies plan to participate in the hiring fair, including the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, as well as OPM, the Social Security Administration, the Small Business Administration, and the National Archives and Records Administration.
Additionally, the CIA, FBI, the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency plan to join.
OPM and the CIO Council will host a series of webinars over the next month to help applicants prepare their applications, ranging from writing a federal resume, to navigating USAJobs.gov, to interviewing.
At the hiring fair, some agencies will use their direct hire authority to bring on cyber experts, while other departments will be able to make tentative job offers on the spot.
The official said by cutting off the applications on Sept. 29, agencies will be able to do their due diligence and review the certs ahead of the interviews.
This latest hiring fair is part of a growing trend to bring hard-to-find talent into the government.
DHS held its third hiring event for technology and cybersecurity workers in August, which attracted more than 2,000 applicants for more than 900 positions.
The agency also hosted one in July 2016 and a virtual one in December.
The administration official said the council, OPM and OMB visited DHS’ hiring fairs and is pulling best practices into their event.
The biggest difference is DHS pushed qualified candidates through as much of the security clearance process as possible at the actual fair. The November event likely will not include the same efforts around clearances.
How many 2210s will agencies look to hire is unclear. The last time the CIO Council surveyed agencies’ IT workforces was in 2015. In that survey, 75 percent of the respondents say they couldn’t recruit the necessary talent to do mission-critical work.
Additionally, the council tried to address internal training challenges by holding the IT Solution Challenge for GS 9-13s in 2015.
Agencies remain eager to hire these technology and cyber experts. After hiring more than 7,000 in 2011, the rate of hiring dropped over the next three years before picking up again in 2015 and 2016. OPM data shows through March 2017, agencies have hired only 1,600 2210s. Meanwhile, OPM data also shows employees in the 2210 series are leaving at the same rate, more than 6,000 a year and almost 40,000 since 2011.
Hunter summed up the challenges succinctly: “When looking at the average retirement age, it’s clear the baby boomers are leaving, so you will need a new set of folks to come in soon, and millennials will not sit waiting to be called, so the government has got to give them the entire employee experience.”
The hiring fair is a good start, without a doubt.