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Workforce Development Considerations

Using the competencies as an organizing framework for skills development

The seven competency areas encompass a full range of capabilities for both IT professionals and IT organizations. Collectively, they represent a competency framework that is useful for considering both agency effectiveness and individual proficiency ratings across the full spectrum of IT activities. In this sense, no single person or agency could be expected to be expert in every individual skill, but (with the possible exception of legacy technologies) IT employees and organizations should possess some level of proficiency in each of the seven competency areas. The optimal degree of proficiency for an individual depends on his or her job specialty, work assignments, and level of responsibility. For example, a journeyman data communications specialist should have advanced or expert proficiency in the skills that comprise the core of this specialty area. This same person should have at least basic knowledge of the key principles and methodologies that make up the other competency areas. Many of the open-ended comments reflected a desire for this breadth of knowledge on the part of employees.

“Each IT track in the state workforce should have a basic understanding of the others. As an applications programmer, I may not need to be an expert in the tools used by Security or Operations, but a basic understanding of what they use and why would certainly improve my ability to respond to and understand their requests and to know what I need or can ask for from those resources.”

Technical training is usually only given to technicians (programmers, DBAs, network administrators). However, the managers of those who are actually ‘hands-on’ rarely get any training to keep them up-to-date. There should be corresponding management-level type courses to help managers and supervisors remain current with their staff.”

Optimal proficiency for agency IT organizations depends on organizational context and the nature of the relationship between IT and the agency’s overall mission. A large agency with extensive infrastructure, large application systems, and many employees who handle sensitive transactions needs high levels of proficiency in areas such security, IT management, and technical support services. A small agency that relies on the Office for Technology to provide centralized infrastructure and high-level technical services still needs at least basic proficiency in the principles of security and system design, while it may concentrate its own expertise in other areas such as content management. Some agencies can segment their IT workers into specialty areas, others need a broad range of capabilities concentrated in only a few individuals.

“The demands on an IT person working in a small bureau are over looked. The multitude of skills required to do it all are so many that becoming proficient at any one is impossible. One minute it's coordinating roll outs of new equipment, the next it's Internal Control reports, then update web pages, test new applications . . . develop business continuity plan [and so on]. There is really no way to follow one path of proficiency. With staff down to minimum, small bureaus require this type of person to do it all.”

For all these reasons, the competency framework helps illustrate how staff development efforts could be organized into customizable competency-based programs that combine courses in related sets of skills into coherent curricula that include complementary topics and appropriate levels of intensity. The idea is to help employees acquire sets of related or complementary skills that round out their competency in all seven areas.