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Aging State IT Workforce, Crisis or Catalyst for Change?

As the imminent retirement of legions of baby boomers approaches, speculation on what impact this will have on the public sector workforce has grown to a chorus of anxious apprehension. A mass exodus of institutional knowledge and leadership, especially within public sector IT roles, is one of the feared outcomes.

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The first baby boomer eligible for Social Security applied for her pension October 15 and Clark Kelso of California last week stated that 75% of the State's executive IT workforce is currently eligible for retirement. A report released by NASCIO earlier this month titled "State IT Workforce: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?" provided results from a survey NASCIO asked state CIO's or other senior officials of state IT agencies to complete assessing the current status and future concerns regarding the state's IT workforces. Survey results provided an average of 27% of the public sector IT workforce is eligible to retire in the next 5 years. As in any state and local quandary, it is necessary to factor the variance that occurs from state to state. The average of 27% over the next five years includes numbers as low as 10% in one state and as high as 60% in another. Another interesting consideration is exemplified in a survey by the New York State CIO Council's Human Resources Committee presented in December 2006 which stated that over 75% of the State's IT professionals and managers had an interest in working part-time for the state after retirement. Put this all together and we have a baby boomer workforce who are career oriented, perhaps can't "live" on a pension alone, and are in better shape than any previous retirees.

GovWin's Take

  • The eventual retirement of baby boomers from the S&L public sector workforce will drive a multitude of major changes in S&L IT operations and business. These will occur at various rates and in varying ratios from state to state across the country.

  • Policy change to allow for retired staff to come back on to government at part-time and full-time levels

  • Need for efficient information and document management systems to automate the "paper pushing" roles within population sensitive local government units, in addition to state level service-heavy departments

  • Increased reliance on IT professional consulting services contracts to replace gap left by executive level IT staff and other tenured IT staff that posses majority of institutional and legacy knowledge

  • Increased interest in business process outsourcing to allow agencies to focus on serving the constituency rather than supporting processes

  • An opportunity for wholesale modernization of IT organization; replacement of large numbers of staff allow for quicker adoption of new organizational structure and best practices

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