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Reshaping the Government Contracting IT Workforce

Posted by David Schwartz

There is increasing competition for interesting IT work in the government contracting industry.

The new confluence of events that is reshaping the industry and its contractor work force:

  1. The embrace of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) has cut licensing costs, and increased the flow of new technologies into the government.
  1. While industry in general has raised expectations that technologies will have shorter lifecycles — gone are the days where any component of a solution stack is expected to last throughout the life of the system — customers are less interested with depth of experience in a limited number of technologies, and are seeking out early adopters who have exposure to a wider array of tools.
  1. Budget cuts are here to stay. Whether from sequestration, Continuing Resolutions, or the winding down of OCONUS activities. The “renegotiations” and rate reductions of the past year are unprecedented in the post 9/11 federal marketplace, and it is doubtful that this trend will be reversed anytime soon.

In short, the availability of low cost technologies with shorter lifespans reduces the emphasis on experience. Coupled with shrinking budgets, we are moving into an era of contraction of budgets and work and compression of the workforce. The government is betting that fewer people with less experience will be able to get the job done.

As a recruiter who has been in the industry since the end of the .com bubble, it appears to me that the pendulum of big budgets funding huge programs and rewarding longevity in the field is quickly swinging to smaller projects with a wider array of technologies used by less experienced staff.

While IT professionals supporting government initiatives have been nearly guaranteed employment in the past decade, the current landscape has a relative cumulative increase in the supply of talent and a decrease in overall demand. This is not the first time that there has been an imbalance between specific skills and overall budgets, with a relative surplus of legacy skills and a smaller need to maintain the systems that rely on them.

Historically as new technologies emerge and get adopted technologists who do not adapt and embrace the new capabilities get displaced. In time many come up to speed with the new tools and excel, but their ability to learn and push themselves out of their comfort zones is crucial to continuing a successful technical career.

David Schwartz is a Senior Technical Recruiter with Collabraspace, recruiting highly skilled and cleared engineers and affiliated professionals.

This article originally appeared on Collabraspace.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 9:02 am

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