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Department of Veterans Affairs Competes for Tech Talent Amidst Layoffs

two people working on computers wearing headsets, tech professionals

In 2023, the tech industry experienced over 260,000 layoffs, leaving many tech workers to venture on a new path with uncertainty. We have learned that several laid off tech workers sought out jobs in different industries, perhaps believing that the tech industry did not offer enough job security any longer. One industry that has been a landing point for former tech industry workers is the government, which is offering jobs that hold a promise of purpose. 

In a previous blog, we discussed what the hiring trends are looking like for big tech companies compared to the government. As companies like Meta are continuing to focus on advancing technologies, particularly in Artificial Intelligence (AI), government agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are taking action to attract top tech talent. Keep reading to delve deeper into the VA’s attempts to compete with the tech industry for these workers.

VA highlights importance of public service

Meaningful work has become a highly important factor in job searching, or even deciding to stay at a job. Research has found that when employees find their work to be meaningful, their performance improves by 33%, they are 75% more committed to their organization, and are 49% less likely to leave. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ chief technology officer, Charles Worthington, believes that the tech industry lacks a sense of public service. 

“One of the most prestigious things you can do out of law school is to clerk for a federal judge. But there’s no equivalent, for a staff engineer. A significant number of the best lawyers, the best scientists in the country, they work in public service for part of their careers. Tech industry workers also need to view it as part of their job to spend some of their career in public service too.”

VA hopes to convince tech workers that they are a great place to work by showing the value that a public service job provides. As the VA moves forward in technological advancements in cyber security, artificial intelligence, and user support services, they are shaping new positions with individuals that have spent their careers in the tech industry in mind. 

Office of Information and Technology implements pay raise 

As the Department of Veterans Affairs works to attract tech workers to their positions, for a shorter period if not an entire career, its Office of Information Technology (OIT) implemented a very competitive perk: a higher salary. This “Special Salary Rate” (SSR) increased the salary for workers in IT and cybersecurity by 17%, which was about $18,000 on average. The SSR was introduced in an attempt to narrow the 66% pay gap between similar roles in the tech industry and government, which keeps them competitive. 

More than 7,000 individuals employed in VA OIT saw salary increases, and qualified employees also received critical skills and retention incentives. While the SSR expires in 2027, it will also count towards the calculation of pensions for employees. 

VA OIT offers professional development opportunities

While the increase in pay is a very important factor for tech workers looking for new positions, professional development can be of interest as well. VA OIT is pitching itself as a place where tech professionals can develop new skills and advance into new and different roles. VA Deputy Chief Information Officer and Chief People Officer Nathan Tierney made it known that VA OIT offers rotational programs that give their employees exposure to a variety of jobs and an opportunity to develop new skills. 

“I want to recruit and retain the top-tier talent to come on board, join the team, and help us deliver better products and services to the veterans that we care about, and their family members.”

As the VA continues to advance their technologies and seek out talented tech workers to help with these developments, their attempts to become an attractive place to work in the federal government are being recognized. VA OIT ranked number one among agencies with more than 100,000 employees in the 2023 Mission-Support Customer Satisfaction Survey. After thousands of tech workers suffered layoffs this past year, it leaves us wondering how many have helped the VA in achieving their mission to build a stronger tech workforce.



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