U.S. creates 'tech fellows' to compete with private sector hiring

Program is along the lines of the White House fellows, but dedicated to people with technology expertise

The U.S. government can't offer stock options, laundry service and catered lunches to prospective job candidates, but it can offer the satisfaction of public service and, now, a fancy title.

The White House has launched a "Technology Fellows" program "to increase the federal government's pool of qualified IT professionals."

The program, similar to the Presidential Management Fellows program, seeks recent graduates of "top graduate programs" with "significant experience" in IT and computer science, for a two-year, paid appointment as a Technology Fellow.

With an $80-million IT budget, the federal government is a major employer of IT talent, especially security experts.

Students expecting to complete an advanced degree, either at the master's or doctoral level, from a qualifying school or university during the current academic year are eligible for nomination.

In explaining the reasons for the program, newly appointed federal CIO Steven VanRoekel acknowledged competition from the private sector in recruiting IT professionals and said that the goal of the fellowship program is to build "a more sustainable talent pool."

"Highly qualified IT professionals are of great demand in any sector of the economy, but the extent to which the private sector is able to hire top performers affords private companies an advantage in attracting the best and brightest in IT," wrote VanRoekel in a White House blog post.

The Technology Fellows program "presents young people with a prestigious option when coming out of their respective graduate programs," said VanRoekel, a former, longtime Microsoft executive.

People selected for the program will be given rotational assignments in the government and will "gain in-depth experience in managing large and complex IT programs." Technology Fellow applications must be filed by Sept. 25.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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