NSW creates centralised tech talent pool

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NSW creates centralised tech talent pool

Cross agency flying squad reformed.

Dozens of digital specialists will be recruited by the NSW government for a new talent pool that aims to improve how skills are shared between agencies.

The Department of Finance, Services and Innovation embarked on the hiring blitz this week to establish the cross-government pool for digital service delivery.

It is after as many as 30 experts from across the fields of data and information management, technical, project and iteration management, as well as policy, research and design, stakeholder communication and engagement and operations.

Many of the jobs fall within the DFSI's Policy and Innovation branch, including at its newly established Policy Lab and the Digital NSW Accelerator – key components of the government chief information and digital officer’s vision for ‘next level’ digital services.

But the department is also keen for other government agencies to access the pool when they require certain skills for digital projects.

Recently appointed executive director of digital government Pia Andrews told iTnews the pool would make digital skills more accessible to all departments by giving DFSI the flexibility to “loan people out”.

“One of the questions in the application process is ‘would you like to also be considered by other departments and other business functions’,” she said.

“And for the people that say yes it then creates an ease of recruitment for the range of skills required for digital government for a whole bunch of my colleagues across government.”

Andrews, who has been in the job for just over a month, said the scheme's goal was to ensure the agency had “enough design, dev and data people” – in particular, but not exclusively – to allow it to offer other agencies support for when they encounter a challenge.

“Say you want to understand what we mean about multiple architecture, I can send you a technical person who understands that intimately,” she hypothesised.

“Want to understand how to actually improve how you publish open data? Cool, I'll send you a data plumber who understands the systems, understands the data.

“Want to understand how to get value from it? I can send you an analytics person.

“Want to understand what assisted design means in the context of platforms? I’ll send you a platforms design person.

“So having this central pool that drives an all of government agenda, but also provides an upside down umbrella for the core mechanism for all of government is kind of where we’re trying to get to.”

However Andrews was also quick to highlight the difference between offering support and parachuting people in, which she likened to someone telling someone else what to do.

She also stressed that the scheme was unlike the US government’s digital agency 18F, which operates as a consultancy inside the General Services Administration and runs on a cost recovery model.

“If you can help them deliver what they’re trying to deliver anyway in a way that happens to also create an all of society benefit and horizontal capability for skills, platforms, policy and the rest, then the whole system uplifts,” she said.

Andrews said the scheme had already received great interest from across government keen to get a hold of the right skills “straight away”.

“I’ve had a number of functions within DFSI, as well as a number of other departments, very interested in the notion because we spoke to a few people before launching it, and that helped us shape the range of skills.”

Apart from assisting other agencies with digital projects, the pool intends to serve the more immediate purpose of filling vacancies in Andrews’ team, which currently sits at around fifty.

“Another goal is to ensure that we don’t just have the policy and design folk, but the technical expertise, the data expertise to drive what we do across whole-of-government digital government,” she said.

It will also help with what she describes as an ongoing shift that started with DFSI Secretary Martin Hoffman and GCIDO Greg Wells to try and make government-wide functions less about “top down compliance” and “much more about the bottom up support to help agencies”.

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