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The Ledger - EST. 1978 - Nashville Edition

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VOL. 37 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 05, 2013

State IT personnel must apply to keep jobs

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Information technology employees of state government must re-apply for their jobs.

The administration of Gov. Bill Haslam has told IT workers statewide to submit applications if they want to keep the jobs they currently fill.

State government IT chief Mark Bengel told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/11YvhEK) the aim is be certain that workers' skills match the state's needs.

"This is really not about getting rid of people," Mark Bengel said Wednesday. "It's about making sure that we do have the skills and we have the ability to develop and retain staff in the future."

Haslam told the newspaper last year that some state computer systems were "in the ditch."

The governor has established an office to centralize IT expertise.

Last year, the administration was successful in steering through a legislative bill that rewrote civil service rules, allowing the state to lay off employees based on job performance , instead of straight seniority.

According to a state Office of Information Resources memo obtained by The Tennessean, each state agency with IT operations "will receive a draft, standardized organizational structure that has been aligned with the mission of the agency. This draft organizational structure will be populated with newly created IT job classifications."

The memo specifies that state IT workers who meet minimum qualifications are eligible to apply and be interviewed for the new classifications.

"Technology is moving so fast that skills are obsolete in the blink of an eye," Bengel said.

Robert O'Connell, executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association, said it is stressful to IT workers who are being forced to re-apply for jobs they already hold.

"That feels bad," O'Connell said. "Basically what somebody in that position is being told is, 'You have lost your job, but there's another one over here you might qualify for.' "

But Bengel said the state must fiercely compete with private industry and a scarcity of information technologists.

"The only way we're going to be able to compete is to grow our own," he said.