If you think it's challenging to recruit talented IT professionals, consider how hard it might be if you were located in a swamp, an hour from the nearest big city.
That's the situation Chad Long finds himself in as a commander and chief of the information systems division at the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center, which is located at the narrows of the Pasquotank River in Elizabeth City, N.C.
Staffing is a priority for Long, because the logistics center is in the midst of a transition. It's migrating from homegrown software to commercial applications and expanding its use of mobile systems. Moreover, along with the entire military, the Coast Guard is increasing its systems security. That means Long's IT staffing needs are changing -- from .Net experts to IT managers who can guide multiple projects.
And that's a challenge. "We do not have the luxury of access to all kinds of IT talent here, nor do we have a big draw," Long says.
He has partnered with local universities, offering internships and training programs for students. He even set up internships for high school students, focused mostly on lower-level tech skills.
"We bring them in and get them experience," Long says. The interns don't always end up taking jobs at the logistics center, but they do seed the labor market by word of mouth -- telling others about opportunities with the Coast Guard.
Carl Webster, deputy chief of the information systems division, says one of Long's greatest attributes is his participative management style. "He's not one who will sit there and dictate," Webster says. "He'll listen to your ideas. It's a collaborative environment."