In the last few years, technological advancements in cybersecurity, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) have transformed how federal government agencies conduct business, develop processes and workflows, and secure their IT networks and critical systems.
Though agencies are enjoying the benefits that these next-gen technologies deliver, they’re beginning to discover a widening IT skills gap within their workforces that is prohibiting them from keeping pace with the speed of innovation. That skill gap is even worse in cybersecurity. If every current college student specializing in cybersecurity in the U.S. were to graduate today, American organizations would still have a significant shortfall in the amount of qualified cyber candidates needed to fill all vacancies.
But skill gaps and workforce shortages are only the beginning of these organizations’ existential anxieties, as they are facing a potentially more troubling issue: today’s average half-life for modern technologies ranges between two and two and half years. This poses challenges for the workforce, such as skill obsolescence and increased skill gaps.
The federal government recognized this growing issue, and responded in 2020 with an Executive Order directing agencies to prioritize skills over degrees in their workforce hiring processes. Since the skills that cyber professionals require roll over every four to five years, the experience fresh college graduates – and current federal employees – bring to the workforce quickly becomes obsolete, which is driving a massive need for continued investment in employee professional development.
One solution to this issue is for agencies to become creators of talent as opposed to consumers of talent by leveraging their existing workforces, mandating continuing education, and up-skilling their workforce on emerging technologies. But that is much easier said than done, especially when a majority of organizations view the concept of “training time” as time away from the job.
So, what can agencies do to dispel that concept and realize that time training makes for a smarter and far more productive workforce?
Leveraging learning as a tactical ability
If government agencies and organizations want to adapt to today’s digitally evolving world, their workforces must be equipped with new skills and abilities as quickly as technological advancements occur. For the government to keep pace with the speed of innovation, it is imperative that learning be viewed as a tactical ability. It must become commonplace in the agency culture, like having staff meetings or hiring for open positions.
The federal government is in a unique position because it has a considerably large pool of candidates that it can select from when looking to cross-skill across agencies. And in today’s federal environment, cross-skilling has become a valuable tool for workforce retainment and professional development.
Cross-skilling is an opportunity for agencies to hire employees from other agencies who do not have a career in technology but are eager to transition to that field. Cross-skilling provides the federal government with an ability to source from their own talent pool and harness current federal employees’ career interests by providing them with a path to pursue that area. The federal government must embrace their desires for career changes and give them a pathway to acquire the skills and abilities they’ll need in these new careers.
When the federal government listens to the members of its workforce who are disengaged in their current roles and want to transition their career into the IT and cybersecurity fields, retention rates will increase and agencies will have a better chance to keep up with the pace of innovation.
Retention through education
Agency employees that have been doing the same job for 10 years will inevitably feel under-stimulated and not challenged, so it should not come as a surprise when they shift their careers over to the private sector. If government agencies were to become learning-centric, this scenario would look quite different. Workforces would get on board because they’re provided with flexible, career mobility within the federal government.
Allowing them that opportunity for continued education will drive them to pursue different interests in their agencies, rather than losing them to the private sector due to disinterest. Federal agencies will be raising a workforce that will be able to reach out, grab adjacent knowledge when it is needed, adapt to it through the new tools gained from learning, embrace it, and carry on running with it next week.
In other words, the federal government will have become a creator of talent, not a consumer – and the skills gaps and unfilled positions will become a thing of the past.
With solutions and services that Pluralsight provides, federal workforces will always be equipped with a library of on-demand technology courses. Pluralsight will also work directly with agency leaders in assessing their workforce’s IT skill gaps, while simultaneously assist in fostering a learning-centric culture through specially crafted career development programs for their IT workforces.
To learn more about how Pluralsight can help assist instill a learning-centric culture within your government agency, click HERE.