'It's a Great Time' for Laid off Tech Workers to Take a Job at VA, Agency CIO Says

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During a media call on Friday, the VA’s CIO and CTO discussed the department’s efforts to attract new talent amid thousands of layoffs across the tech sector.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is actively working to recruit laid off tech employees and is hopeful that a pending salary increase will help draw in new talent, VA officials said during a media roundtable on Friday.

Kurt DelBene, VA’s chief information officer and assistant secretary for information and tech, said that the thousands of layoffs across the tech sector—which have impacted Silicon Valley behemoths and small startups alike—provide “a good opportunity” for VA to bolster its own tech workforce. 

“It's happening at the same time that we're really trying to—and being successful in—doing a transformation of IT at the VA,” DelBene said. “So we really wanted to just take an opportunity to just get the word out as to what we're trying to accomplish, and why we think it's a great time to actually consider a career at the VA.”

The VA currently has approximately 1,000 job openings, which run the gamut from software development to product management and cybersecurity. To recruit tech workers for these positions, the department is working to provide interested talent with more direct support to help navigate the complexities of the government’s application website. 

VA Chief Technology Officer Charles Worthington said that the department has set up a specific email inbox—OITcareers@va.gov—to help people that are “coming from the tech industry and are not familiar with the government hiring process, which can be a little bit daunting without somebody talking you through it.” 

“Too often in government, the candidates will toss their resume into sort of an obscure posting on USAJobs, and then they just won't hear anything for a really long time,” Worthington said. “We're trying to change that, where we communicate with the candidates about what the status is. So even if the status is, ‘hey, it's going to be another couple of weeks,’ just to get in that regular touch point so that they know a real human is on the other side of this looking at the resumes and processing them through.”

While he didn’t have the exact numbers, Worthington added that “it's been in the hundreds of folks that have reached out” to the inbox thus far. 

In addition to helping streamline the recruitment process, DelBene said that VA is highlighting its numerous remote work opportunities and is hoping to incentivize laid off tech workers by pushing for a government-wide salary raise that will “be more commensurate with what's in the private sector.” 

VA previously pushed for a special salary rate from the Office of Personnel Management that would close the public-private wage gap by roughly 60%. DelBene said VA hopes OPM will approve the salary bump “very early in the new year,” adding that the agency is “equally enthusiastic, as we are, to get it over the finish line.”

Nathan Tierney, the chief people officer at VA’s Office of Information and Technology, previously discussed VA’s efforts to recruit laid off tech workers in an exclusive interview with Nextgov last month, noting at the time that VA has also used “some backend analytics tools, through LinkedIn and some other platforms,” to identify around “4,900 employees at Amazon, Meta and Twitter” for the the department’s talent acquisition team to target.