Balloonland

stuff gets examined.

Government Contracting

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I don’t know how it works in other countries, but in Canada, using contracted IT staff in federal departments is a big industry. It allows the departments to avoid (to the department management) tiresome union rules regarding language capabilities, seniority, and various staff ratios. It also allows the use of other funding vehicles and acquisition methods to get more people without having to give them benefits, pensions, treat them like humans, or report them as additional staff members, which (particularly under our current dumbass libertarian-influenced rulership would be a bad idea). Federal departments contracting has caused thousands of consulting firms (fondly called “headhunters” since they actually have very few “consultants on staff and just dip into the same pool of subcontractors to staff any given government contract)) and a lot of contractors who occasionally do very well by the work, as it tends to be absurdly well paid, compared to the value that is actually being delivered (this is the equation i use: a social worker who attempts to positively influence a child or person to improve their quality of life is giving a valuable service, whereas an IT contractor such as myself is drawing up or contributing to a IT infrastructure that will be obsolete/politically out of favour in a year or two  is doing busywork that allows large sums of money to be handed from government departments to headhunters and software/hardware vendors.  The social worker generally is lucky to get 40k a year, while the IT contractor is often getting 150k a year – as a corporation, but nonetheless).

Unfortunately, the system is broken. After the financial fun n’ games of 2008, contracting dropped off like mad. We also experienced a federal government review that indicated that many, many IT projects were going off the rails and never completing despite millions of dollars, and  a stupid twisty right-winged leadership which, like any right-wing government professing to be looking out for business interests and fiscal responsibility has managed to stifle  IT-related commerce and grow the deficit . A headhunter manager I spoke with in 2009 made this point – The auto industry was suffering in the same time frame and received tons of cash from the federal government. The IT contracting industry was hammered, too, but got nothing. The auto industry employs approximately 100,000 people in Canada. The IT contracting field employs roughly 300,000.  It continues to be broken – many contractors wait months and sometimes years for contracts, and per diems (the amount you get paid for a day of work) have dropped by half in many cases, as there are too many qualified people desperate for the work.

Naturally, I have though constantly about changing lines of work, up to and including applying to various government  programs to fund retraining. These programs told me my skill set is not obsolete, therefor i cannot be retrained. I apply for full-time jobs to be subject to suspicion that I’ll jump ship as soon as a good contract comes along.  Ha! I contract because I cannot get a full-time job – it is the act of desperation.

This up-and-down lifestyle leads to a lot of financial issues, of course – myself and many other contractors I’ve spoken to have experienced the sudden loss of a contract (the department employing the contractor changed priorities, the finances were examined and re-allocated, the project was determined to be faulty, the contract wasn’t being tendered out correctly),  resulting in some desperate financial  survival tactics such as spending money saved to pay taxes (Me: twice now). It seems a final insult to injury that I’m now being hassled to hurry up and pay money I don ‘t have to the same government that created this system out of laziness that it broke on top of it all.

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Written by balloonhed

February 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm

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