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Program Attracts Next-Generation Info Tech Professionals

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2007 – Information is the lifeblood of the military and the defense of the United States. To that end, the Defense Department is working to recruit the next generation of information technology professionals.

As part of the IT Job Shadow Day today, the Pentagon hosted 39 students interested in IT from area high schools. “We need these young men and women to be a part of the career field,” said Joyce M. France, director of DoD’s Chief Information Officer Management Services directorate. “We are looking for a lot of students and interns to come into the department.”

Officials estimate that roughly 10,000 information technology civilian employees will be eligible to retire at the end of this year. “We have an aging work force. We want to interest students in DoD, and we want to show them what type of jobs are here,” France said.

Computer jobs are much more than simply working on hardware, she said. IT professionals are responsible for information assurance, building networks, helping users get what they need from data bases, writing programs -- “the full-range of jobs that are available to people in the field,” France said.

Private industry can offer these young men and women more money, “but we have a lot of people, especially after 9/11, who want to come to the Department of Defense,” France said.

Private industry also seldom offers new employees the scope and level of responsibility that DoD offers. France said that young men and women can be in charge of multi-million-dollar programs that have a direct impact on life and death in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Leaders from the DoD information technology community spoke to the young men and women abut the environment inside the department, the practical steps they need to take to be competitive, and the rewards of employment with the government. Officials told the students that while math and science knowledge is crucial to success in the IT field, they also need to study English to be able to clearly communicate with users and superiors.

Officials also took much of the mystery out of security clearances that young IT professionals need to work for the department.

Young men and women often are attracted to the department for the cutting-edge technologies they can work with, France said. “They could be working with (the National Security Agency) or working with the warfighting systems. In the systems we have, the information technology is embedded in them. Radios, satellites, looking for improvised explosive devices -- in all of these areas information technology has a role, and that can be exciting to these students,” France said.

Jonathon Glad, a senior at Thomas Edison High School in Alexandria, Va., said the presentation was interesting. Glad, 18, wants to join the Army after going through ROTC. He said the IT presentation convinced him there are opportunities in the military for his interests, and for him to make a contribution.

The IT Job Shadow program includes information technology professionals from 26 federal agencies. The group visiting the Pentagon visited the National Military Command Center and received briefings on scholarships, internships and jobs in IT within the department. While DoD has participated in the program in the past, this year is the largest effort, France said.

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