Closing the Government Workforce Gap with Innovation in Hiring and Training

Younger workers are not replacing the aging and rapidly retiring federal government workforce at an equal rate. Additionally, the work of government has changed, requiring specialized skills in cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence (AI) not just in technology jobs but in careers across all departments. There are simply not enough candidates to fill these positions (40,000 in cybersecurity alone) utilizing standard hiring practices. Given this reality, hiring officials are getting innovative in how they fill technical roles.

Utilizing Existing Programs

The Biden administration has worked to modernize internships, apprenticeships, and fellowships to attract younger, less experienced workers to build their resumes within government. The pay for participants in these programs has been raised considerably, making them more attractive and practical to a wider base of people. An apprenticeship sprint for cybersecurity resulted in 7,000 apprentices being hired. These programs are also being used to fast-track development efforts, giving participants real assignments to develop solutions that can be put into use in government today.

Additionally, the Pathways Program for high school graduates, associates, bachelors, and certificate holders has received an update, along with the presidential management fellows programs for people with advanced degrees. Changes include expanding eligibility to include people who have completed non-collegiate post-secondary education. This allows internship applicants who have completed registered apprenticeship programs or Job Corps to use time served in those programs toward the work hours needed to convert to a permanent job.

Yet another program that could help fill talent gaps is the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA), which facilitates a talent exchange between levels of government and between government and universities to fill skilled professional positions quickly. It gives government access to professionals for short, specific assignments or needs. Most serve for under two years. In fact, half of the staff at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) serves under the IPA. The IPA also allows academics to contribute to agency projects without having to give up their full-time job.

Digital Skills Training

A report found that 92% of jobs require digital skills, with approximately one-third of workers lacking the skills needed to take on these jobs. The government is working to address this gap with a new bill that modifies the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to increase investment in digital skills training by providing grants and funding to local, state, and organizational employment programs and services for upskilling workers or providing them with expanded job opportunities. Currently, digital skills training programs are not "an allowable use." By expanding the definition to include digital skills, the program can remain relevant, providing the exact skills workers need in today's economy.

Skills Based Hiring

Over half of the nation's workforce doesn't have a bachelor's degree. Predicating hiring on a degree discounts many qualified candidates. Today, those without higher education have to submit relevant experience in the field when applying for jobs. That process is tedious and confusing, leading many to self-select themselves out of the process.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is making efforts to change hiring to skills-based hiring, which focuses on testing candidates for capabilities instead of relying on educational credentials to qualify job seekers. Most recently, OPM changed the requirements for skills-based hiring for the 2210 job series, which encompasses IT and cyber workers. This move is a big shift for hiring teams, so OPM is continually offering guidance and releasing Subject Matter Expert Qualification Assessments (SME-QA) that can be used to interview applicants and review resumes.

To stay on top of federal workforce trends, check out these resources.

  • Federal News Network's Workplace Reimagined 2024 (August 27, 2024; webcast) - Spend an afternoon hearing federal and industry human capital and technology experts share advice, tactics, and success stories about thriving in a hybrid world.
  • FedTalks 2024 (September 10, 2024; Washington, DC) - The federal government is in the midst of a digital transformation that has the potential to reinvent the way agencies provide citizen services and perform their most essential functions. Yet, at this transformative moment, intangibles like leadership, workforce development, innovation, and cultural management remain key to navigating the massive shifts in how agencies serve their missions in the digital age.
  • Gartner ReimagineHR Conference (October 28-30, 2024; Orlando, FL) - How can HR leaders build a new, sustainable path forward to extraordinary talent impact without the extraordinary circumstances of recent years? Explore emerging ideas and actionable insights on how HR leaders can harness and direct creative momentum to unlock new dimensions of human performance.
  • Workforce Is a Critical Infrastructure: Strengthening the Defenders (white paper) - The resilience of critical infrastructure and the security of the nation are not dependent on any singular technology. Attacks are repelled due to the underappreciated actions of the cyber workforce. The cyber workforce is not a tool or resource deployed across each sector. The workforce is a critical infrastructure, and in its absence, all other sectors would collapse.
  • AI in Full Bloom: Agency Guide to Scaling from Pilot to Production (white paper) - With AI's transformative potential now more accessible than ever, this report delves into the strategic planning, technological management, and organizational change required to harness it fully--integrating AI seamlessly into agency operations and ensuring long-term, sustainable success in their missions.

For more on the evolution of the Federal workforce, search for insights on GovEvents and GovWhitePapers.

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