change. For example, Walsh said the new computing environment in government requires people with special skills, yet the civil service examination for MIS staff in Monroe County is both generic and restrictive. She said the test tends to favor people who have mainframe skills, whereas she now needs people with skills in AS/400s or PC networking.
People who have special skills sometimes don't score well on generic tests, according to Walsh. Either they lack knowledge on more traditional computing skills or they just don't test well. And if the person happens to have the skills for a job that's in high demand, the last thing they care to take is a generic computer test. "A network person can get a job anywhere these days," said Walsh. "It's difficult for me to get that person to join my department."
To remedy the situation MIS directors must turn to specialized training to retrain their existing staff. Unfortunately, specialized training is often too expensive for many agencies and departments. That is the problem Fred Alvarez is having in Indiana. He wants to use I-CASE to reengineer his department's information systems so they can more easily share information.
But he can't recruit new employees who specialize in CASE because the state's civil service doesn't have a position yet that fits that category. "Changing the situation requires going to the civil service and convincing them that the need exists to bring up a whole new set of positions and career paths, along with a new compensation structure," he said. But changing an infrastructure that's been the same for 20 years is unlikely to happen soon.
So, Alvarez is spending nearly $100,000 to train a few of his staff on how to use CASE tools. But he's at the mercy of the trainer in terms of when and where the training takes place. And once his employees are trained, there's no guarantee they will stay. "Other state agencies or private businesses can easily cannibalize from me," said Alvarez.
With no easy answer, Alvarez is hoping to enlist the state's computer learning center to set up a CASE training program that would be available year round at affordable rates. For that to happen, Alvarez needs as many agencies as possible to participate. He's begun talking to other state agencies, as well as regional city and county departments, to convince them to share some of their resources for CASE training.
Alvarez knows it won't be easy. "I'm afraid that some agency heads will shy away from making the investment and will continue to invest in less expensive, but more fragmentary training." According to Alvarez, training in PC-based relational databases is popular these days, but it doesn't provide government the skills for running integrated information systems on an enterprise scale.
By investing resources primarily in PC training, government is just going for the Alka-Seltzer solution, remarked Alvarez. "It's the fast, rapid solution that doesn't accomplish anything. PC training without any training that fosters true integration just gives you fast relief. After that, you're dead."