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States Embrace Non-Traditional Hiring, Easing Workforce Woes

While some concerns about filling government IT roles persist, eliminating education requirements, leaning on skills-based qualifications and expanding internship programs are helping states find new talent.

Indiana CIO Tracy Barnes
Indiana CIO Tracy Barnes.
Government Technology/David Kidd
In the 2022 Digital States Survey,* CIOs ranked IT staffing concerns as their No. 3 priority, fearing a retirement wave would mean more vacant government IT positions than they could easily fill, especially given competition with the private sector.

At the NASCIO Midyear conference last week, tech leaders indicated that some of those worries remain, but there’s been a distinct shift as states have embraced non-traditional hiring practices to recruit new talent.

Indiana is among the states eliminating traditional four-year degree requirements for IT roles, instead looking at what skills applicants bring as well as their willingness to learn.

The Indiana Office of Technology’s (IOT) SEAL, or State Earn and Learn, program, which hires people with non-technical backgrounds and pays them to work for IOT while they learn on the job, is just one creative way they’re attracting new talent. CIO Tracy Barnes said programs like this have “turned the tide” when it comes to issues with workforce gaps and that efforts to bring state IT salaries more in line with market rates have helped as well.

Tennessee has also turned to more non-traditional programs like Hiring Our Heroes, which connects military veterans with jobs, but CIO Stephanie Dedmon said some positions, like those in cybersecurity, remain challenging to fill.

To overcome this, she said the state is using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to give internships to college students pursuing cyber degrees, and to support other avenues toward building a robust talent pipeline.

*The Digital States Survey is conducted by the Center for Digital Government, part of e.Republic, Government Technology’s parent company.
Lauren Kinkade is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and more than 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.
Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including <i>Government Technology</i>, <i>Governing</i>, <i>Industry Insider, Emergency Management</i> and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle 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.