Opportunities exist in federal IT reskilling. Can we seize them?
April 20, 2021
April 20, 2021
Government is experiencing rapid digital transformation. Federal IT leaders will need a similar human transformation plan to ensure their organizations can maximize value from new technologies and meet growing talent needs. Reskilling those with aptitude to embrace a new set of job qualifications is essential.
Some 88 percent of federal personnel have an interest in learning new skills, according to research by Accenture Federal Services and the Government Business Council. Agencies will need to tap that ready base of eager employees if they are to keep up with the growing presence of cloud, rise of artificial intelligence, and expansion of robotic process automation. Already, 70% of IT leaders globally struggle to hire talent across areas like DevOps, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. And recent reports indicate that quantum computing is emerging from the labs, creating another future skill set challenge for federal agencies.
Our research found that the artificial intelligence (AI) and automation may influence thirty percent of the average federal worker’s time by 2028. And the Partnership for Public Service has identified more than 80 federal occupations that will likely be affected by automation. Workers need to adapt and will need new skills. IT must lead in identifying necessary new skills and providing retraining opportunities for workers who express interest in these future skill sets.
Many IT leaders, understandably, have been reluctant to fully embrace the mantle of reskilling. They’re deep in the midst of sweeping modernization efforts, and the need to prepare a future workforce can easily take a back seat. That needs to change as no one else is emerging and taking the lead.
While HR partners must engage and support these efforts, IT leaders are ultimately the best positioned to steer efforts on reskilling the federal IT workforce. And there’s value in IT taking charge. After all, who has a better working knowledge of the changing skills requirements?
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While HR partners must engage and support these efforts, IT leaders are ultimately the best positioned to steer efforts on reskilling the federal IT workforce.
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At a recent roundtable hosted by Accenture and the Partnership for Public Service, a number of federal leaders talked about lessons learned thus far and charted a path forward for the IT reskilling agenda. Participants included Jason Gray (Chief Information Officer, Department of Education), Bill Marion (Managing Director for Defense Growth and Strategy, Accenture Federal Services and former Defense CIO), and Robyn Rees (Senior Advisor, Department of Interior, Office of Human Capital).
Federal leaders described the need to invest in training, and to democratize those efforts. That means agencies need to make the time and resources available to those who show an interest in expanding their skill sets. Workers also need the chance to demonstrate their new skills. Ideally, a reskilling effort will include a 52-week detail, to give that newly trained individual a chance to put their skills to work and to earn tangible career credentials.
Panelists likewise described efforts agencies can take to empower federal personnel to make proactive career choices. Online career management tools, for example, can give employees the means to find the information they need more easily, including data around skills associated with various occupations. It’s a way of democratizing the learning, enabling workers to take charge of their own skills development pathways.
Examples like these helps demonstrate what is possible. For IT leaders looking to drive a reskilling effort, here are a few key steps:
It will take more than good intentions to drive change. IT will need to make the case to senior leaders. Executive buy-in is critical to generate the needed funding and skilled resources to support a reskilling program. IT can also ally with HR to share and build on current resources and strategies to break through and make measurable progress.
Virtual, on-demand learning, such as that available on Pluralsight or Coursera, should be emphasized, as it enables individuals to build skills that may be outside of their current job classification.
Shifting from physical classrooms to online learning can also be more cost-effective. Agencies can pare down overhead by offering reskilling in more easily digestible, virtual increments instead of traditional full-scale, in-person training.
Agencies should strive to clearly communicate to workers the benefits of reskilling, as well as the priority skills they are looking for and the career paths associated with those skills. This can help identify those most likely to embrace an opportunity to continuously learn prioritized skills.
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Open communication can also alleviate worries that may stem from reskilling. Nearly one-third of federal workers believe AI will create opportunities for their work, but 61 percent of respondents are worried about lack of technical support and user training.
The Partnership for Public Service recommends agencies assess existing skills, to see how they align with expected future needs.
Accenture’s own research shows that agency reskilling efforts thrive when leaders focus on tasks, rather than jobs. In this way, it becomes possible to identify the existing workers that match up most naturally with the emerging needs, and to identify if those employees are interested in reskilling opportunities.
By taking the helm on reskilling, IT leaders can ensure that their modernization efforts today will be sustained and scaled by an engaged workforce trained on the most in-demand skills.