CIO Council prepares new talent pool for IT hiring

Monday - 5/14/2012, 2:50pm EDT

Ruben Gomez, reporter, Federal News Radio

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Agencies soon can begin hiring IT professionals under the recently-launched Technology Fellows Program.

Steven VanRoekel said the Chief Information Officers Council is combing through a list of applicants for the 2012 class and expects agencies to begin selecting candidates before summer.

"What's great is it's a fast-track hire because once they've cleared the hurdles of the selection process, you can just point at the pool and hire them," VanRoekel said Friday during a Congressional forum on technology in Fairfax, Va.

The program targets graduate students, and the CIO Council, working closely with the Office of Management and Budget, began accepting applications last September. OMB first detailed the initiative, which is part of the Presidential Management Fellows Program, as part of the 25 Point Plan to Reform Federal IT Management. VanRoekel said the fellows program aims to build a pipeline of emerging talent for federal IT.

"In no other organization in the world can an individual work on information gathering systems sent into space, the protection of our warfighters and homeland through cybersecurity, or unlocking health data that could benefit millions of Americans," VanRoekel wrote in a September blog post announcing the program.

But while the Technology Fellows Program hopes to bring new professionals into government, the administration also is working to help more seasoned employees by having them work more closely with the private sector. "We are piloting right now a program called Entrepreneurs-in-Residence that allows, in an unconflicted way, private sector people to come work in government," VanRoekel said. "And the two-way part of that is we also want to take government employees and move them into the private sector for short periods of time."

Federal employees who participate work with private sector companies for as long as 18 months to learn new skills that could benefit the government, VanRoekel said. The administration most recently conducted the pilot at the Food and Drug Administration, and the concept could soon spread to other agencies.

VanRoekel and other federal IT leaders view initiatives like Entrepreneurs in Residence and the Technology Fellows Program as a way to better compete with the private sector for highly-qualified professionals in an increasingly tech-savvy world.

"The U.S. government is in a worldwide competition for talent," said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and general counsel of the Professional Services Council. "No longer is the federal government the leader in attracting that talent."

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