December 31, 2008 By Hilton Collins
Life. The applicant, a computer-engineering graduate, was hired into the Department of Natural Resources as a developer. He attended the virtual job fair as a tiny cat with a red bow tie.
"We considered it a success. Our site was in good shape, and we had visitors and inquiries about jobs," Ross said of the February event. He said the state leased land in the virtual world for $100 and spent $6 more to purchase features to enhance its presence there. "If I just recruit one, just hire one person from there, the payback is immediate."
Some CIOs are luckier than others when it comes to recruiting new talent. Santa Clara County's Wing said her jurisdiction - home to the Silicon Valley - is a destination spot for IT talent, especially when the economy is down.
"Usually when the economy is doing really well, that's when we kind of hurt a little in trying to compete with the outside [firms], but because the economy's not doing as best as it could, we have a lot of talent that we've been able to bring in," she said.
According to Wing, younger IT professionals may seek government work for the stability, especially if they've been laid off from private companies. When she can, Wing has experienced workers mentor newer co-workers in a practice she calls "paralleling" - matching key subject-matter experts with younger individuals so knowledge can be passed down.
She also thinks CIOs should consider letting employees work remotely to make positions more attractive to next-generation applicants.
"They might start looking at telecommuting if some of these young people live in other areas - giving them the option to work from home," she said. She added that people can work off-site in order to spend less time driving, to avoid paying expensive gas prices and reduce pollution."
Of course, some feel that CIOs could do even more to fill department seats with young employees.
David Behen, CIO of Washtenaw County, Mich., doesn't think federal, state or local governments are taking this topic seriously. "When I talk to people about this issue, it's like people are trying to do something, but the wheels are spinning and it really hasn't caught on yet," he said. "And I'm afraid it's going to be too late when it catches on," he said.
Behen is the vice chair of the Public Technology Institute's CIO Council, which guides government IT leaders in handling technology opportunities and challenges. He has also given presentations at conferences nationwide, in which he informs CIOs of the need to recruit Millennials. Like North Carolina's Willis, he thinks CIOs should adapt to the changing technology landscape that the younger generation is familiar with.
"I have a 6-yearold, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. None of them will know the world without Google," Behen said. "None of them will know the world without cell phones, high-speed Internet [or] wireless technology. The way that government provides services now is going to be tremendously different for these young adults."
He added that government should educate young adults on the value of public service. "We need to start recruiting at an early age, making public service a viable option for folks as they look at careers," he said.
That means talking to high school students and recruiting at colleges to foster a sense of pride in serving. "We as a government, as local officials, need to get out there and start promoting government service," he said.
Missouri's Ross has sent teams from his department to visit middle schools and high schools to persuade students that IT careers are attractive life paths. But when his team asks students to draw pictures of people who work with
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