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CIOs Want to Supplement and Upskill Their Workforce

When asked what they’d invest in if funding were no object, many state chief information officers gave the same answer: hiring more people and developing current staff.

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If money were no object, state CIOs would point more of it toward their workforce. That’s what many of them told us during interviews earlier this year. And if that’s the response coming from some of the highest-ranking technology officials at the state level, it’s likely a pretty popular opinion among public CIOs at large.

“We can’t do anything without the people,” said Delaware CIO Jason Clarke at a NASCIO panel in May. “Workforce has been the priority.”

Several said that they would add sheer numbers. In a recent story on govtech.com, we dug into trends in the government tech workforce in recent years. 2021 was the first year since 2014 in which this overall workforce segment shrunk in most states. CIOs are feeling the effects. A related piece of data doesn’t help government IT recruitment efforts: While the median salary nationwide has steadily increased, real wages for government IT staff haven’t kept up.

Another frequently named staffing-related line item CIOs have their eye on is investing in their existing talent pool. Leaders now realize that upskilling current staff to meet evolving organizational needs is especially important in technology fields, where legacy skills often correlate to legacy technology. A more modern enterprise requires newer capabilities, and prioritizing professional development can also help foster organizational loyalty.

New York Chief Information Officer Tony Riddick encapsulated the sentiment of many of his colleagues in answer to the “if money were no object” question: “Getting more people, enhancing our workforce, making sure that our people are trained and that they’re agile and that we put them in a position to be successful.”

But even though state and local government budgets are reporting surpluses, and seeing a healthy injection of capital due to recent federal spending, government CIOs will never have limitless resources. With very few exceptions, all are resolutely focused on cautiously guarding the bottom line and managing their departments effectively while moving them ever forward toward organizational goals. And they’re clearly doing so with an eye on supporting the people who make it all possible.

Despite the salary disparity between the public and private sectors for technology jobs, government work remains stable through uncertain economic times. Whether or not we’re on the cusp of a full-blown recession, it’s a good time for a stint in public service, and for those already on the payroll, it’s a good time to stay put, avoid the increased volatility of the private sector and make a difference. The people choosing to do so should be acknowledged and rewarded for it.

Turning the lens inward, I am fortunate to work with a talented editorial team at Government Technology that has grown significantly as we look to build on the legacy of this publication that is now 35 years old. In the past few years, we’ve added several positions, representing increased investment in editorial coverage of state and local IT and education.

One area I’m particularly excited about is the capacity we’ve added to do data journalism. We can now dig more deeply into the numbers behind our reporting, offering a fuller picture of the stories we’re doing for our readers. The workforce story I mentioned earlier features six interactive graphs based on recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data on technology jobs in state and local government, where you can see overall trends as well as state- and role-specific details directly relevant to you. For example, did you know there are four states where government IT workers make more than their private-sector counterparts?

Another recent piece breaks down election tech used across the country, revealing the one state still working on getting a voter-verified paper trail in place to back up its direct recording electronic system. Still in the works is an updated look at state CIOs as fall elections approach: how long they typically stay in their jobs, how often a new governor means a new CIO and much more. Bookmark this page to keep up on our data reporting: govtech.com/biz/data.

And let us know if there are topics you’d like us to dig into. We look forward to hearing from you.

Noelle Knell has been the editor of Government Technology magazine for e.Republic since 2015. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.