After a decade of declining ratios of younger-to-older federal technology employees, analysts see the start of a turnaround.
The federal IT workforce remains a much older crowd than most experts and officials would like. But the latest workforce data shows early signs of reversing an ever-growing gap in the number of younger IT employees joining the federal government over the last decade.
During the Federal IT Management and Budget section of the Professional Services Council’s annual Vision Federal Market Forecast event held Monday, Steve Vetter, federal strategist and senior solution executive at CISCO, noted the federal IT workforce still trends older.
“As we highlighted last year, we’re still at about 15 times more federal workers that are in the over-50 category than in the under-30 category,” he said.
Of the 2.1 million people directly employed by the federal government in 2020, about 85,000 served in IT-related positions, accounting for about 4.3% of the workforce, according to figures from the Office of Personnel Management’s FedScope database. That total number has been on a steady increase since 2012, according to PSC analysts, but the ratio of under-30 employees to over-50 has been growing.
The percentage of under-30 IT workers hit its lowest level in 2017, when the young crowd made up only 3.2% of the federal IT workforce.
A 2017 Nextgov analysis of workforce trends found a similar age gap, though using different metrics. The numbers showed the government employed 4.5 IT workers over the age of 60 for every IT employee under 30.
“Nextgov found the trend has been driven almost exclusively by an increase in older employees rather than a decrease in younger workers,” Jack Corrigan reported.
The percentage of under-30 IT employees “had been declining and was a big cause for concern,” Vetter said Monday. However, “Over the last two years now, we have seen growth.”
According to PSC’s analysis, the federal government added 110 additional under-30 IT workers in 2018 and 111 in 2019, representing small but continued growth year-over-year.
“We’re seeing the first glimmers of sustained growth in the under-30 workforce,” Vetter said. “We’re now seeing year-over-year sustained growth, albeit small, moving up 1.1 to 0.2 percentage points as we move forward.”
Vetter noted the percentage of the federal IT workforce under 30 is still down 24% overall since 2012, but the recent trend has been encouraging.
“That under-30 workforce growth has been one of the most positive things we’ve seen,” he said.