Feds hired skilled IT workers after high tech bust

The federal government may have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the fall of the high tech market in Ottawa, according to a partner with a management consulting firm.

“The collapse in the market liberated an entire set of skills and competencies onto the federal government marketplace,” said Bryan Bell of BMB Consultant Services Inc. “And I can tell you for a fact that they took advantage of it quite quickly.”

Bell, who spoke recently at the Information Highways 2003 Conference and Showcase in Toronto, said the federal government needed the skills high tech workers offered in order to drive its Government On-Line (GOL) initiative.

“Since 1999, the federal government has gone on quite a hiring spree and to date roughly 17,000 new staff has been recruited into the federal public service of Canada,” said Bell, a former government employee. “The majority have these new technology-related skills and abilities to harness the power of new opportunities in terms of providing a service delivery channel for the federal government.”

In addition to technical skills, Bell said the government is also looking for people who possess the appropriate leadership competencies to manage the new high tech transition into the GOL service delivery model.

“I can tell you from being inside – as well as being a consultant to – the government that their appreciation of the actual technical opportunities that the Internet represented as a service delivery channel was somewhat lacking back in the late 1990s,” Bell said. “I think that has been corrected by the influx of these new competencies that were acquired in early 2000 and it is continuing.”

However, the next challenge for the federal government will be the mass loss of staff in the next five to eight years as baby boomers retire. Over that time, approximately half of those in management positions will be eligible to leave the federal government.

Bell said the government’s response to the dilemma has been a proactive one and it has “implemented some accelerated management development programs” to ensure that new people with the right skills are put in place as older staff members exit the public service.