Developing an AI Training Plan for the Government Workforce

In talking about AI, there is a lot of discussion about "training the models"--feeding large amounts of data into an algorithm and then examining the results to ensure they are accurate. Once the models are deployed, the training does not stop for the models, and even more importantly, for its users.

A study from Deloitte estimates that generative AI could help boost productivity tenfold. However, this jump in efficiency will only be realized if AI and its outputs are being used correctly. Working with AI and AI-generated content requires a different set of skills that include critical thinking, algorithmic understanding, data analysis, deeper domain knowledge, cyber/data hygiene, and more.

Knowing that we are facing a new way to work, workforce training is being mandated and legislated. The AI Training Expansion Act of 2023 would require the Office of Management and Budget to expand a training program to provide federal managers with an introductory understanding of the operational benefits and privacy risks of using artificial intelligence. Additionally, the House Education and the Workforce Committee recently passed the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act, which would allow workers to access quality, short-term training programs.

So, with agreement on the need for training, what should it look like? Unlike AI technology, humans cannot simply be "fed" petabytes of data and be expected to learn. AI training for our federal workforce needs to be experiential and applicable to their day-to-day work. Simply sitting through an hour-long PowerPoint presentation will not prepare employees to utilize AI effectively, efficiently, or ethically.

Everyone is a Data Scientist

Removing the "stigma" from the term data science is important in making the workforce AI literate. While true data scientists are highly educated and trained, the principles of data science are something needed in nearly every professional role. Ensuring that the workforce is not intimidated by data science, training is critical to guaranteeing employees gain the skills and perspective needed to work in a data-rich environment. Training should help employees map the relevant data to the business functions they serve and understand how they, and the people they serve, consume it.

Power of the Prompt

Employees need to know how to ask the right questions to get the answers they need. The results delivered by a generative AI solution are only as strong as the prompt used to generate them. Researchers have found that even very small changes to how prompts are written result in different outcomes, making it clear that the quality of prompts greatly affects the quality of outputs. Employees need training on how to most effectively craft questions to get the desired results out of enterprise AI platforms.

Hands On With Automation

On-the-job training is how today's workforce will become AI-literate. These trainings must be interactive rather than one-sided lectures. Training should be "multimodal," with videos, written materials, and opportunities for people to experiment with AI in a controlled environment.

The private sector is stepping up to provide programs to the government, with companies including Accenture and Google developing public sector-tailored courses. The Department of Energy is working to educate future members of the workforce making AI literacy and use a key component of their community-based education offerings. Veterans Affairs is also focused on training its workforce to better utilize AI, with initiatives to train healthcare professionals in AI applications for diagnostics, predictive analytics, and personalized treatment plans. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also integrating AI into its training for emergency responders nationwide.

GovEvents and GovWhitePapers have a host of resources that can serve as AI training for employees at all levels of AI use and knowledge.

  • Building Responsible AI Workflows with AI Governance (April 30, 2024; webcast) - In this event, attendees will learn how to identify the elements of an AI governance structure to build and use responsible AI tools while mitigating risk and meeting policy standards. Examples of implementing AI governance in an agency will be included.
  • AI for Government Summit: Taking the Lead in a New Era (May 2, 2024; Reston, VA) - This event will provide an overview of the basic terms used in AI technology, outline the impact of AI on data centers and cloud infrastructures, review the steps to shift current policies and practices into alignment with the requirements of AI implementations, and include use cases from federal agencies and the lessons learned to date.
  • Emerging Technology and Innovation Conference 2024 (May 19-21, 2024; Cambridge, MD) - Organizations need to ensure that they aren't only investing in new technology solutions that will enable their teams to be more efficient and effective; they also need to ensure that the technology is being applied in an ethical and responsible way. Everything, from how data is collected and stored to how companies invest in these solutions, needs to be rethought.
  • EMERGE: AI on the Frontlines (June 4, 2024; Washington, DC) - Join government leaders, AI experts, and industry innovators to hear how federal agencies stay ahead of threats by harnessing AI for tactical operations and strategic decision-making in the field. Explore the balance between innovation and responsibility, how to successfully scale from AI pilot to real-world implementation, and the foundation needed to enable robust AI operations.
  • A Taxonomy of Trustworthiness for Artificial Intelligence (white paper) - This paper aims to provide a resource that is useful for organizations and teams developing AI technologies, systems, and applications. It is designed to specifically assist users of the National Institute of Standards and Technology Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework (NIST AI RMF).
  • Engaging with Artificial Intelligence (white paper) - This publication from the National Security Agency aims to provide organizations with guidance on how to use AI systems securely. The paper summarizes some important threats related to AI systems and prompts organizations to consider steps they can take to engage with AI while managing risk.
  • 3 Trends Impacting the Future of Artificial Intelligence in Government (white paper) - This publication touches on three top trends, including AI in today's day and age, how AI affects the government, and what's to come in the future of the federal workforce.

For more on using AI in government check out GovEvents and GovWhitePapers.

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