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State OKs 'Huge Change' in IT Job Reclassifications

A state board on Thursday approved a major overhaul of how state IT workers are classified, a reorganization that the head of the California Department of Technology says will bring more skilled tech workers to the state ranks and keep them there.

A state board on Thursday approved a major overhaul of how state IT workers are classified, a reorganization that the head of the California Department of Technology says will bring more skilled tech workers to the state ranks and keep them there.

In a unanimous vote, the State Personnel Board approved the plan, which affects 10,000 state employees, or roughly 5 percent of the workforce. Specifically, the 36 IT job classifications that now exist in government will be eliminated, and state workers will be assigned one of nine new classifications.

California Department of Technology (CDT) Director Amy Tong, who attended the packed hearing, said the modernization simply recognizes the modern skill set in the IT industry and better aligns the state with the private sector. 

“We’re definitely looking forward to this reclassification having a positive impact,” Tong said in an interview with reporters.

Just by changing IT job descriptions, Tong added, the state will “naturally attract more people” who in the past haven’t considered state employment because job descriptions didn’t match up with their experience or current technologies. 

Some job descriptions, for example, haven’t been updated in more than 20 years, and key needs, such as information technology security, are not included in today’s job classifications, according to a Jan. 11 letter sent to the five-member personnel board. 

“I think this reclassification proposal is long overdue,” board member Maeley Tom told the packed audience of state workers who attended the hearing. “I think it really reflects more of a respect for all of you for the work that you’ve done and how can we improve our system to better reflect your talent and your skills.”

The consolidation is the largest piece of Gov. Jerry Brown’s three-year-old Civil Service Initiative undertaken to date, and it’s one that union officials told the board would be “a life changing experience” for state IT workers.

In the past two years, a core team of nearly 50 experts from 13 departments and five state agencies helped design new classifications that are intended to cover the entire spectrum of IT work, said Jamie Inderbitzen, the project manager who oversaw the classification plan on behalf of the California Department of Human Resources.

“We believe this concept is well thought out and will serve the state well for recruitment and hiring,” Inderbitzen said.

Some state workers, however, question whether the changes will improve recruitment and expressed concern over new requirements that they say could affect career paths.

In some cases, workers might not be as equipped for the job, in part because the amount of education or the number of college credits needed for positions will shrink, Margarita Maldonado, vice president of the union that represents state IT workers, told the board. Under the new classifications, for example, a person could apply for a job they might not have been able to in the past because they lacked the education criteria but they have other work experience.

Other concerns rest on the lack of a reporting structure for supervisors and managers, with the reorganization placing some workers at a higher level than their current leaders.  

“Many IT workers are not happy with this change,” said Troy Phillips, a staff information systems analyst with the Department of Water Resources. “IT workers run the state of California behind the scenes. IT professionals need to be valued.”

Maldonado added that the state should invest in job training and start giving state workers the IT work they are qualified to do rather than outsourcing contracts. She also expressed reservations about the huge task ahead as CalHR rolls out the new classifications at the end of the month.

“I wish this was going to the solution in order to eliminate outsourcing,” Maldonado said. “$2 billion was spent last year on contractors doing work that our members could do. That is ridiculous.”

CalHR’s Inderbitzen said the department plans to hold three days of forums later this month to give state workers an overview of the new classifications, as well as offer customized consultations to departments. It will also release a new online exam for state IT jobs.

“No meaningful change can happen without its challenges, and CalHR is prepared to address those challenges as they come downstream,” Inderbitzen said.

Tong, who described the reclassification as a “huge change,” said the benefits would outweigh the risks or challenges. She also responded to critics of IT sourcing, saying the state’s talent pool will be enhanced under the new system.

“Simply ... the ability for us to attract more talent into the state is going to naturally reduce the reliance on the need to outsource,” Tong said.