Alex Cooley, Northern Virginia Community College
Each of the employers interviewed for this project indicated difficulty in sourcing IT talent, particularly for mid- and senior-level positions. Some of the challenges given were finding talent with the correct active security clearances, difficulty finding experienced skill sets in areas like data analytics and cybersecurity, and challenges associated with government contract requirements.
Due to the difficulty employers expressed in finding talent, we asked them about innovative or enticing benefits they were providing employees in order to source talent. A sample of innovative benefits included: referral bonuses (which were both a recruitment and retention strategy), social activities, affinity groups, flexible work schedules, and generous parental and caregiver leave.
Another topic discussed was professional development opportunities as a strong talent retention strategy. While the methods in which professional development and mentorship was performed differed among the different companies, each of the companies interviewed indicated some type of formalized program or practice. Examples of professional development included in-house trainings and career pathways, providing tuition reimbursement and funding for formal education or certifications, paying for professional membership affiliations, and job shadowing and cross training opportunities.
Finally, we asked employers an open-ended question about what education could be doing better in terms of developing future IT talent. Some ideas discussed at the K-12 level included nurturing young women and diverse populations interest in STEM fields at early ages, keeping classroom curriculum and technology up to date, providing hands STEM on learning like summer camps and science fairs. Ideas discussed for higher education included better curriculum alignment to industry needs, including industry certifications in higher education degree programs, and providing more work-based learning opportunities for students.
"The Northern Virginia tech community is in critical need of a larger, more developed workforce to sustain growth while continuing to create innovative products and services," said NVTC President and CEO Bobbie Kilberg. "We encourage IT executives to use the best practices identified in this research to augment their existing IT succession planning for talent attraction, development, and retention."
"Engaging directly with employers is a critical component of the work NOVA leads to understand the labor market needs of our region,” said Melanie Stover, Director of Corporate Engagement at NOVA. "As the deepest talent pool in the Commonwealth of Virginia, our partnership with NVTC is fundamental in ensuring the growth of the northern Virginia economy."
With IT jobs comprising more than nine percent of total employment in northern Virginia, the region employs nearly three times the number of IT workers as a share of its workforce than the national average, and the region will need to fill 110,000 additional IT positions over the next 10 years.
To view the full report, “Northern Virginia IT Workforce Succession Planning Best Practices,” click here.