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Missouri lauded for IT workforce planning

by Ryan Pivoney | October 4, 2022 at 4:03 a.m.
Hands type on a laptop computer keyboard in this Feb. 27, 2013, file photo. (AP/Damian Dovarganes)

Missouri is among the nation's leaders in planning for skilled IT workforce needs, according to the Center for Digital Government.

The national research and advisory institute ranked Missouri as the second best state in its "IT Workforce Planning" category, which reviews processes and plans the state has developed to address its need for skilled IT workers now and into the future. The ranking was based on the Center for Digital Government's 2022 Digital States Survey.

Missouri ranks just behind Michigan but in front of Minnesota in the IT workforce category. The Show Me State didn't place in the top three of any other survey categories, such as IT resiliency, connected IT infrastructure or offering constituent-centric services.

Under Republican Gov. Mike Parson, the state has put a focus on workforce development and education. Within the Office of Administration's Information Technology Division (ITSD), that has involved investing in IT professional development programs, enhancing recruitment efforts, streamlining hiring processes and supporting a robust internship program.

ITSD has an ongoing partnership with software company PluralSight for IT training courses and labs, a six-month class to develop IT leaders and a year-long onboarding program for new hires that includes mentorship from division veterans. The state also offers access to LinkedIn Learning platforms and training for professional technical certifications.

OA is also touting the recent pay increase for state workers that took effect earlier this year as a boost for IT workforce planning.

The division held a hiring event Sept. 30, where it hoped to fill several senior-level positions.

"Recruiting and maintaining a skilled workforce in our ITSD Division is essential to providing a high level of customer service to both our state employees and Missouri citizens," Jeffrey Wann, the state's chief information officer, said in a news release. "In order for us to compete in today's job market, we have had to not only look at the salaries of our employees, but also find innovative ways for them to grow professionally. Our commitment to long-term professional growth and continuing education has been at the center of our strategic employee retention planning."

ITSD received an A- overall grade from the Center for Digital Government's survey. It's a slight decline from the A grade it received in 2020 and 2018.

The Center for Digital Government is a national institute that reviews IT policies and best practices in state and local governments. The survey, conducted every two years, looks at government IT practices used to serve constituents and streamline operations.

Missouri was one of 11 states to see a grade decline from 2020. Grades for 22 states remained unchanged while the standing of 17 states improved.

The Center for Digital Government's surveys and awards director did not immediately respond to questions Monday about why Missouri's overall grade fell slightly.

An A- grade reflects "very strong innovation" and "high performing solutions with verifiable impacts" across all aspects of ITSD operations, governance and administration, according to the institute.

According to the center's review of Missouri, the state's work lately has focused on consumer-focused technologies, workforce development, efficiency and cybersecurity.

ITSD is undergoing a $126 million overhaul of the state's digital government platforms, the results of which should be noticeable by July 2023. The overhaul would implement a new portal for residents to access state agency services and add tools to eventually update 1,200 state IT systems, nearly a dozen of which date back to the 1980s.

ITSD's efforts to expand online project management, implement shared cloud workspaces, offer more online services and conduct annual cybersecurity testing within government agencies also contributed to its A- grade.

Top IT priorities among states throughout the nation include cybersecurity, constituent engagement and experience, staffing, modernization of outdated technology and broadband connectivity, according to the Center for Digital Government.

"Missouri is committed to recruitment and retention of our state workforce, while also focusing on innovative technologies to serve our customers," OA Commissioner Ken Zellers said in a news release. "I am proud of the processes and solutions our talented team members are implementing throughout state government. We will continue to find more ways to move Missouri forward."

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