As technical skills gaps in the federal workforce widen, government organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to serve the needs of the public. To meet their digital transformation goals, federal agencies need to look inward for the next generation of tech talent — they must equip their workforce with tech-forward skills to better execute on their missions.
The Aging Federal Workforce
The federal workforce is growing older every year. According to the Office of Personnel Management, as of March 2021, 15% of the workforce is over 60, while just 8% is under 30, out of a population of 2.1 million government employees.
Not only does the federal workforce not represent the generational makeup of the populations they serve, there simply isn’t enough talent in the pipeline to take over when older employees retire.
Challenges of Hiring Young Talent
Unfortunately, recruiting young talent to fill skills gaps isn’t a viable solution. The government is struggling to attract young people due to its lengthy hiring processes and lower pay.
According to WSJ, getting cleared by the government and getting access to tools and software systems usually takes 12 to 18 months.
As a result, federal agencies often lose their best candidates to the faster-moving — and better-paying — private sector. In fact, private sector employees are paid 23% more on average than their federal counterparts.
The Digital Skills Gap is Widening Fast
Unfortunately, talent in critical areas just doesn’t match the demand. According to Gartner, the number of open roles in artificial intelligence and data science doubled from 2015 to 2019. And it’s not slowing down — demand doubled again just a year later in 2020.
There simply aren’t enough people in the market today with the required skills. Agencies have always augmented their workforce with third-party consultants, but that is quickly shifting to a heavy reliance on contractors.
Not only is this approach unsustainable, it’s also more costly than employing full-time employees. Agency employees have to provide direction to contractors and it isn’t feasible for them to scope, direct and oversee mission-critical programs effectively without expertise themselves.
The key to closing digital skills gaps in the federal workforce is deceptively simple — you must develop new skills and retain your current employees to transform your organization from the inside out. Many employees do not have the right current skills for their positions or have opportunities to pivot their skills into tech areas of current and future need.
The Problem with Most Training Programs
Agencies need practitioners that can come out of training, ready, confident, and able to apply what they have learned in real-world situations. To that end, you need to invest in the right training solution.
Traditionally, the government has invested heavily in training. However, most employee training programs provide learners a simple, theoretical crash course on a given topic based on higher education principles. Learners passively follow along in the course and simply aim to pass exams. Unsurprisingly, they graduate without being able to apply their newfound skills in a professional setting.
How Udacity Helps Make Your Desired Talent Strategy a Reality
Closing your skills gap isn’t a one-time effort. According to IBM, the half-life of technical skills is only two and a half years. Learning must therefore be woven into the very culture of your organization. You need to invest in organization-wide technical skills training to constantly upskill your employees.
Udacity’s mission is to train the world’s workforce for the careers of the future. Our Nanodegree programs are exclusively focused on the most in-demand fields such as artificial intelligence, data science, programming and cybersecurity.
Our courses are the gold standard; they’re built by industry experts from leading companies like Google, Amazon, and IBM. Learners work on hands-on projects so that they can apply their skills to tackle similar challenges in their roles.
What’s more, our network of 1,400+ mentors and reviewers provide 24/7 support to unblock learners and provide personalized project feedback at scale to ensure effective learning.
Government agencies are under pressure to achieve mission-driven results against the backdrop of an aging workforce and widening digital skills gaps. In order to future-proof their workforce, they will need to build a culture of learning and invest in the right workforce transformation programs. Only then can they be prepared to accelerate their talent strategy to better serve the mission.
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