Friday, October 31, 2008

Federal I.T. jobs tend to list much more general requirements than do private contractor jobs

I have tried looking at the federal government information technology jobs in the Washington DC area, at this link, which allows one to choose a geographical location and a jobs area. The basic web link is here.

What comes up is about six pages of jobs. A number of the federal jobs do seem to be related to hardware or maintaining office networks. But maybe half of them seem to relate to general areas of project management and particularly supervising or monitoring the progress of contractors. Relatively few of them seem to require coding, because actual coding and unit testing (and probably QA testing) is most often done by private “Beltway Bandit” contracting companies.

The requirements for some of the jobs tend to be general, stressing education and years in grade (or equivalent private sector), along with certain general levels of skill with areas like SDLC (systems development life cycle), project management and contract management.

This could be a good time for someone who “retired” to start following these jobs closely, partly because the financial crisis might generate some needs in areas like Treasury, IRS, SEC, FDIC, (or even PBGC), etc, with needs having to do with credit lines, bank takeovers or federal infusions of capital into various institutions connected to the bailout. Some of these would seem to require some “old fashioned” financial systems changes of major magnitude.

Typically, one submits a generic application resume on the USA Jobs site (which does not allow enough space for work experience). Then, to apply for a specific job, one also must answer some essay questions that are scored with the applications. These questions have to do with general “metrics” for the job. People with military service will want to read the rules for veteran’s preference carefully. A few agencies (especially those related to homeland security or defense) require the applicant to resubmit the entire resume on a separate site (typically allowing much more room for detailed narratives of work experience) along with questions related to a possible background investigation. This separate site is usually Avue Central Digital Services.

An interesting example for someone of my background is a position that closes today 09-DC-002-D in the US Attorneys Office (unfortunately, it closes today, 10/31). Since I have spent a lot of time since retirement researching Internet law and technology “nexus” issues, this general area might provide a fit.

Nevertheless, look at two of these “general” requirement metrics:

“(1) Proficiency with a variety of software programs used to produce graphic demonstrative evidence;
“(2) Proficiency with a variety of courtroom presentation technology and computer applications used to prepare effective presentations of evidence and other information at trial”
Even though they sound general, they say that the applicant needs to have proficiency with software packages that law enforcement agencies use to present evidence. A simple example comparable in private industry might be graphics applications used in the auto and casualty insurance industries to process claims.

One of the biggest problems in the private contractor job market has been the excessive focus on specific “job ready” skills. Companies say this is necessary to place “job ready” candidates with clients (true) and also to keep employee selection objective and beyond the reach of any possible discrimination claims. That has some merit, too. Even in the government, the job requirements, even though they look more general (typically they don’t name specific software programs or vendors, whereas private jobs do), actually see, to look for a pattern of expertise in an area closely matching what the agency actually has to do.

Of course, what government and industry need now is real leadership, the ability to “connect the dots” among areas to see underlying trends and perhaps nasty threats, even to our way of life. Unfortunately, too many of these jobs in government are politically connected and lose any hope of objectivity in the way the jobs are actually done. Look at what has happened in the last eight years.

The applicable regulations regarding age discrimination in government start with the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, described by the EEOC here:

According to the Handbook of Human Resources Management in Government, on p 384, the law originally protected individuals from ages 40 to 65. In 1978 the upper limit was raised to 70 and then eliminated altogether on Jan 1, 1987, link here.

Remember those days of filling out Form 171 for Civil Service? In this day and economy, even "early retirees" may start looking at "Uncle Sugar".

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