Assessing USDAs IT Workforce

By Barry Porter,2014-11-13 13:21
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Assessing USDAs IT Workforce

    Survey Statistics

    The survey typically took 15-20 minutes to complete. Response

    rates varied by agency; several agencies had over 50%

    participation and one agency achieved over 60% participation.

    Across USDA, over 1,600 IT employees completed the survey,

    approximately 34% of the target population. USDA’s 34%

    response rate was noticeably higher than the 26% average

    response rate across the federal IT workforce and is considered

    a relatively strong response rate for a voluntary survey.

    Survey Demographics

    The survey included demographic questions relating to age,

    grade, years of government service, years of IT industry

    experience, planned retirement, and other factors. Based on the

    responses, a profile of the “Typical USDA IT Worker” emerged (see Figure 1). Assessing Today’s IT Workforce USDA recently participated in the first ever, federal-wide

    information technology (IT) workforce skills assessment. The

    skills assessment was sponsored by the Federal Chief

    Information Officers (CIO) Council, the Office of Management

    and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Personnel Management

    (OPM). The web-based assessment survey was designed to

    collect information from federal IT employees regarding:

     Figure 1. ; Demographic information such as age and occupational series, Based on survey responses across the entire federal IT ; Current proficiency in a variety of competencies and skills, workforce, the “Average Federal IT Worker” has a similar profile ; Certifications held, and to USDA’s average IT worker, but is slightly more senior, is ; Time spent on a series of “specialized job activities.” more likely to have an advanced degree, has fewer years of Federal service and more years of private sector experience, Drivers for IT Workforce Planning and is more likely to consider leaving the organization in the The survey satisfied the E-Government Act (Section 209) of short term. 2002 requirement to analyze the personnel needs of the federal government relating to IT and information resources Top Level Assessment management, as well as the annual requirement of the Clinger-The survey asked respondents to self-assess their current Cohen Act (CCA) to assess the competencies* and skills** of proficiency in a set of 16 general and 53 technical the federal IT workforce. Survey results will also serve as competencies, using a six-point scale (0-5). The competencies critical input in the development of a USDA IT Workforce included in the survey are a subset of the competencies that Strategy in support of the Departmental Human Capital Plan. make up the GS-2210 occupational series, and can be mapped back to other job functions and series. The top 10 technical and Defining the IT Workforce top 10 general competencies of the USDA’s IT surveyed-The survey was completely anonymous and voluntary, and population (based on average proficiency) are shown in figures targeted employees in IT and IT-related positions. Although 2 and 3. they are an integral part of the IT workforce, contractor personnel were not surveyed. Occupational series used to

    identify the appropriate survey audience included the following traditional IT series: GS-0334 Computer Specialist GS-0391 Telecommunications GS-0854 Computer Engineering GS-1550 Computer Science GS-2210 Information Technology Management Other (including GS-0332, GS-0335, etc.) Select individuals from “non-traditional” IT series such as GS- 0301 (Misc. Administration and Program) and GS-0343 (Management & Program Analysis) were also included in the survey audience. Figure 2.

     *Competency: OPM defines competency as a measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that an individual needs to perform work roles or occupational functions successfully. **Skill: A skill is a part of a competency that helps one apply that competency to accomplish specific tasks. Whereas a competency is high level and could be applied to many areas, a skill is usually quite specific.

    and amount of time spent on specialized job activities. When

    survey data are paired with other indicators such as the Federal

    Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and the Capital

    Asset Plan and Business Case (Exhibit 300s), a more

    comprehensive view of the actual “bench strength” of USDA’s IT

    workforce is provided. By linking proficiency in related

    competencies and skills to the amount of time spent on each

    activity, one can infer whether the workforce has adequate skills

     and competencies given its workload, or if there are critical gaps.

    Survey Conclusions

    USDA’s IT workforce is tenured and experienced; around 11%

    plan to retire within 3 years, including a large number of GS-15

    and SES employees. That percentage is even higher within

    certain agencies, including the Rural Housing Service, Office of Figure 3. the Chief Information Officer, and National Agricultural Statistics

    Service. Planned retirement trends will be a critical input to The survey also included 80 IT-related skills and 46

    workforce planning. certification areas. Figure 4 shows the top 10 certification areas

    and indicates the number of survey respondents certified in each

    area; the percentage of overall survey respondents certified, USDA’s IT workforce has a relatively high level of proficiency in

    based on 1,638 total respondents; and the ranking of the number several of the most important technical competencies, but needs

    of employees who hold the certification. competency development in several other important IT areas.

    For example, survey results indicate potential skill gaps related to IT security, enterprise architecture, and knowledge

    management (e.g. Portal Development, Groupware) in many

    agencies. By comparison, proficiency in general competencies

    is uniformly stronger.

    There are higher competency and skill proficiency in key areas

    within certain USDA agencies. Awareness of where strength,

    capabilities, and areas of expertise exist and do not exist will be

    crucial inputs to Department-wide workforce planning efforts.

    For example, the majority of employees holding certifications in

    critical areas such as project management, IT security, and

    solutions/enterprise architecture work within the Farm Service

    Agency, Food and Nutrition Service, Natural Resources Figure 4. Conservation Service, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, and Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). OCIO will work Additionally, the survey asked respondents to estimate the with the USDA agencies to determine if additional policies and amount of time they spend (extensive, moderate, or strategies are needed in the area of IT certification. minimal/none) on 10 different “specialized job activities.” Figure 5 shows the number of respondents (out of 1,638) who spend an Next Steps extensive amount of time on each activity. Workforce planning and management are key elements of USDA’s Human Capital Plan. USDA’s OCIO and Office of

    Human Resources Management (OHRM) are now using the

    survey results in conjunction with other data to help develop a

    USDA IT Workforce Strategy in support of the USDA Human

    Capital Plan. Agency-specific data are available for participating

    organizations to conduct additional analyses.

    The Federal CIO Council and OPM will sponsor their next annual

    survey in the summer, 2004. Each agency’s assessment of

    their current workforce will help identify skills imbalances, as well

    as areas where strategic competencies may lack the depth

    necessary to attain agency priorities. USDA looks forward to

    participating in this survey and increasing the response rate of

    our IT employees. OCIO will contact your agency in the coming

    weeks to help the Department move forward in this process.

Figure 5.

    The Analysis Phase

    As noted, the survey collected the respondents’ estimates and/or

    self-assessment of their proficiency in general and technical

    competencies, proficiency in IT-related skills, certifications held,

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