Ask state and local CIOs around the country what they’re worried about and pretty quickly you’ll start hearing about workforce issues. Nearly everyone is wrestling with some form of HR challenge, from replacing baby-boomer retirees, to retaining existing staff as the private-sector job market rebounds, to retooling employee skills to match a new services-centric IT environment.

That’s why Tennessee CIO Mark Bengel is on the cover of this issue. His state is undertaking one the nation’s most interesting and ambitious efforts to remake IT hiring and training practices. Among other things, Tennessee is rethinking IT job classifications and boosting investment in staff training. The goal is to grow entry-level employees into multi-talented future IT leaders with a long-term commitment to state employment.

e.Republic’s own research shows that Bengel — along with a few others in our cover story — is tackling some particularly tough problems for government managers. Our latest survey of state and local decision-makers and agency managers, conducted in June, indicates that public agencies continue to struggle to find good people and train them properly.

For instance, half of the survey respondents said their department lacks adequate staff to get its job done. Almost 70 percent said staff knowledge in their department had stagnated or even decreased over the past year due to lack of professional development. Add the fact that almost 40 percent said their department had frozen hiring and pay raises and the picture really looks bleak.

Fortunately, the news wasn’t all bad. Almost 50 percent were optimistic that their agency could attract and retain the young workers it needs, despite the challenges. And 60 percent said their department’s employee compensation (including benefits) was either somewhat or very competitive with private-sector compensation packages.

It’s imperative for government managers to leverage the public sector’s advantages — and find smart ways to address its deficiencies — as they remake their workforces. And, to be sure, most workforces will be remade. Sixty percent of our respondents expected to lose between 10 and 30 percent of their staff to retirement over the next five years.

States like Tennessee are laying the groundwork to not only replace those retirees, but to also grow a new generation of workers with skills matched to today’s technology needs.

Elaine Pittman  |  Associate Editor

Elaine Pittman is the associate editor for Government Technology, Public CIO and Emergency Management. Before coming to Government Technology, she worked for The Coloradoan daily newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached via email and @elainerpittman on Twitter.