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IF YOU'RE MANAGING an IT department at just about any company in the country, recruiting quality IT talent is probably your biggest headache. And it's not going away anytime soon. There are fewer computer science majors coming out of universities today than there were 10 years ago, and demand for fresh talent is still growing. Competition is tight, salaries can be absurdly high, and benefits that used to be special perks, such as stock options, are standard issue.
Now imagine that you're working in the public sector. Your problem just got a whole lot worse.
As nearly all public agencies and government have become savvy to the benefits of technology, their IT project lists have grown. And like their counterparts in the private sector, they need to hire top-notch programmers, engineers, and project managers who have skills in the latest technologies.
But government organizations -- particularly at the state and local level, where budgets and staffs are smaller -- are strapped by restrictions such as salary caps, an inability to offer stock options, and a reputation for lagging behind in technology innovation. These factors can add up to the least attractive opportunity an IT job candidate receives.
To overcome the growing shortage of IT workers, government agencies have gotten creative, and to stay competitive, private companies may just have to follow suit.
"This shortage of IT workers hits the state governments more so than the private sector," says Ed Janairo, training coordinator in the information technology group at the Council of State Governments, in Lexington, Ky. "The base salary is typically lower, and there's the impression or stereotype out there that state governments [are] going to be using older systems that seems to deter a lot of candidates."
The public sector is investigating its recruiting difficulties. Last year, the Council of State Governments decided that the issue of IT recruiting was crucial, so it sent out a survey to the top IT managers in each state -- usually the state CIO or IT director -- to find out …