More than 48 percent of all Defense Department technology workers are at least 50-years-old. So like many agencies, DoD officials are wondering where and how they will get employees to replace those that are due to retire in the next decade.
One approach DoD and many other agencies are using to address the impending retirement wave is by attracting high school students through the Chief Information Officer Council’s Information Technology Job Shadow Day.
Joyce France, DoD’s director of CIO Management Services, says about 100 students participated in the program at DoD.
“[The age of our workers] concerns me and I look at those types of statistics and say ‘What should I be doing to ensure I have a pipeline of skills students and professionals in the IT world to fill these jobs,’ ” says France during the IT Job Shadow Day Feb. 5 at the Pentagon. “We wanted to tell them not only here are the job opportunities, but here’s the things you need to do to prepare yourselves to get to your optimum job in information technology.”
Along with DoD, the Army, the Air Force and the Joints Chiefs of Staff participated. Other agencies including NASA and the General Services Administration also took part.
France says the program is paying off, at least in the short term.
“I do know a couple of organizations here saying we will tag a couple of these students as interns,” she says. “They were interviewing some of the students so they can bring them on as interns. So that is a start.”
France says DoD has taken part in IT Job Shadow Day for three-straight-years. And even though the military has yet to see any specific benefits, France says the long-term pay back is what they’re after.
Cheryl Roby, DoD’s deputy CIO, says the day is to show that the department offers lucrative and challenging IT jobs.
“It was around the career path DoD offers them,” Roby says. “We try to make them understand that 2.5 million computers is a lot of computers that need a lot of attention and lot of work to make sure they are successful operating and meet the needs of our warfighters.”
Roby says DoD gives them education and career direction that reward them both professionally and financially.
“We think it’s opening up their aperture when we have days like today when the children hear us talk very enthusiastically about the work we do,” she adds.
Air Force Gen. John Maluda, director for cyberspace transformation and strategy, says giving the students more information and making them excited is what IT Job Shadow Day is all about.
“We are looking for IT professionals in the DoD and your other agencies that support this country,” Maluda says. “But my main message to them was take whatever skill sets they have and use them for the betterment of society. Whether that means being in government service or being a teacher, librarian or anything else that supports this country of ours. Give back a little for all they have gained.”
Sammi Omer, a student at Edison High School in Alexandria, Va., says he wants to work for the federal government, but didn’t realize the wide breadth of opportunities.
“It has cleared up many of my perceptions of the military,” he says. “Prior to this IT Job Shadow Day I was planning on getting my major in IT services, but after talking to a few people I decided to get my major in computer science.”
Markel Yates, a student at Lee High School in Springfield, Va., says she learned a lot more about DoD and IT.
“This opened my eyes to a whole lot of opportunities,” she says. “I didn’t think DoD had a lot to do with computers and was all about military.”
She says because of her experience at shadow day she wants to major in forensics or cybersecurity.
DoD set up stations to give students an idea of what types of work servicemen and women and civilian employees do. These stations included forensics, cybersecurity, biometrics and several other technology areas.
“They were really interested in seeing what was there,” France says. “We had a young man who worked in graphics and another who worked with Web 2.0 tools. We wanted to draw a correlation between these tools and how we use them to support DoD’s mission.”