VA’s Initiative to Recruit Laid Off Tech Workers is Paying Off, Official Says

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The VA’s ongoing efforts to recruit high-skilled professionals displaced by layoffs across the tech sector are helping to fill a host of tech-related vacancies in the department.

After implementing a plan late last year to recruit high-skilled workers displaced by layoffs across the technology sector, the Department of Veterans Affairs is using the start of 2023 to further hone its talent acquisition initiative, in an effort to fill a number of vacancies across its Office of Information and Technology. 

VA officials previously spoke at a media roundtable in December about the department’s efforts to actively target professionals laid off by tech companies amid a downturn in the sector, noting that the sudden flood of talented workers on the job market coincides with the VA’s focus on modernizing and transforming its IT systems. Giant tech behemoths and small startup enterprises alike have both experienced widespread layoffs, with Amazon announcing earlier this month that it plans to lay off 18,000 workers.

The VA’s tech worker-oriented hiring initiative has focused on streamlining the application process for professionals unfamiliar with the federal government’s hiring process, highlighting the department’s remote-friendly positions and working to increase salaries and incentives as a way of drawing private sector talent to the VA. 

In an emailed statement, VA Chief People Officer Nathan Tierney told Nextgov that the department is continuing to strengthen its tech worker-focused hiring efforts in the new year “by optimizing our offer, sharing our stories and leveraging our strong competitive position as a leader in technology.”

“In 2023 and beyond, we will be very intentional about using the right techniques to promote VA’s Office of Information and Technology and its mission to attract the right talent, and we rely on a feedback loop and monitor metrics to continuously improve,” he added. 

While the number of tech-related vacancies within VA was pegged at around 1,000 during December’s media roundtable, Tierney said the department’s hiring initiative has already helped to narrow that gap—an approximately 25% reduction thus far—with VA expecting that number to continue decreasing as it works to bring on more high-skilled talent throughout 2023. These openings include a range of tech-focused positions, from user-experience designers to cybersecurity professionals and engineering leads.

“We have been successful over the past month in our talent acquisition approach and as a result have reduced our vacancies to 744, and another 178 are pending onboard to the [Office of Information and Technology],” he added, noting that there are also “361 more candidates in the pre-selection stage.”

Some of this work has also included some specific targeting of skilled tech workers. During a previous interview with Nextgov in November, Tierney said VA was using “some backend analytics tools, through LinkedIn and some other platforms” to help identify around “4,900 employees at Amazon, Meta and Twitter” for the talent acquisition team to contact.

As the U.S. workforce continues to grow following the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, the VA is also working to highlight the tech sector’s ongoing contraction alongside the department’s current need for talented professionals. 

The Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, which was published on Friday, found that the U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in December as the nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.5%. Even with overall hiring rates remaining strong, VA Chief Information Officer Kurt DelBene released a statement underscoring the fact that “the tech industry is still shedding jobs,” and that VA is continuing to reach out to laid off tech workers to fill a range of vacancies across the department. 

“Tech professionals who want to level up should join us on the frontlines of VA's digital transformation,” DelBene said.