Goodbye clerks, hello knowledge workers



FCW reported on workforce initiatives, including the Trail Boss program, that sound quaint today

Events of the past two decades have not been kind to the image of federal workers. “Reagan was the second successive president to run against the government,” said Patricia McGinnis, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Excellence in Government. “That created a very negative message for both the public and federal workers about the value of public service.”

But there were brief moments when federal employees were cast as heroes. The governmentwide shutdown in 1995 made people appreciate government, McGinnis said. And the terrorism attacks in September 2001 led to levels of trust in government not seen since the 1950s, she said.

That goodwill, however, did not continue. With Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the failure of leaders at all levels to respond adequately, the image of the government workforce took another beating.

But information technology, as much as events, changed the image of the government workforce during the past 20 years. Clerks and secretaries disappeared, replaced by knowledge workers with specialized expertise and technical skills. Experts who study federal workplace issues have seen five trends that have had a significant effect on the federal information technology and acquisition workforce in the past 20 years.