To find cyber, data science workers, agencies should explore non-traditional disciplines, like musicians


Add a few more highly sought after skillsets to the ever-growing list of technology talents agencies need to build up.

Along with cybersecurity, program management and data science, agencies now need employees who know about artificial intelligence, robotics automation and machine learning.

Margie Graves, the deputy chief information officer of the government at the Office of Management and Budget, said the administration is looking far and wide for training and workforce development approaches agencies could borrow from to meet their needs today and in the future.

“We’re working with communities out in the entire U.S. to identify models where individual states have taken that concept and said they will start with the support of the governor and legislature and move that to the support of the business community and governmental community to hire these individuals when they come out of these programs. Ultimately, we will move that down to the K-12 arena,” Graves said at the recent Advanced Technology Academic Research Center on IT modernization Summit in Washington, D.C. “The other thing we are talking about in that arena is talking about capability sets and aptitude, constant curiosity and tenacity, which are the attributes that we think are relevant in the cyber realm, to make sure that people have the right skillset opportunities to be able to engage in this education and move into that workforce.”

Margie Graves (left), the deputy CIO of the government, and Stephen Rice, the deputy CIO at DHS, discuss the need for a reskilled workforce. (Photo courtesy Crouse Powell of Crouse Powell Photography).

Graves said these types of programs are especially good to find people who have a certain set of skills that maybe haven’t been applied to cyber or AI or data science.

“Do you know what one of the most important disciplines that can easily transfer into cyber? Musicians,” she said during the panel, which aired on Ask the CIO. “The whole STEM aperture needs to be opened up because a lot of people self-select out of those opportunities because they don’t see themselves that way. We need to encourage non-traditional disciplines that could be brought into this realm.”

This is why OMB launched the cyber reskilling academy in December exactly for this reason—to take federal employees from other disciplines and help them learn cybersecurity.

OMB recently extended the applications deadline to apply for the academy because of the partial government shutdown.

Graves said back in December that the academy already received more than 400 applications.

“There is a huge demand for that reskilling, for being able to walk into these pipelines and be a part of this community,” she said.

OMB also is working with the Labor Department’s statistical analysis group to ensure they are incorporating changes to job series listings for federal positions.

“Now the way we hire is somewhat based in a legacy approach, which may need to change to an assessment of capabilities and aptitude as opposed to resumes and key words,” Graves said. “It’s something we all own as a community. It has to be done by changing job series codes, by descriptions, by changing the way you conduct the hiring process. All of these things are in the mix. It can only be done with OPM, Labor and other agencies that are invested in making these changes to facilitate this kind of change.”

Stephen Rice, the Department of Homeland Security’s deputy CIO, said the department is discussing what type of people they need to hire because they need to understand how to work within a cloud services model.

“It takes a different understanding of the contractual oversight, the consumption of finances and the responsibility to monitor workloads in a cloud environment,” he said. “From a cyber perspective, it’s really about educating the CHCO community about the width of cyber. We have to be able to articulate within a federated community where each center may have unique skillsets or needs, and then being able to articulate that across the entire department.”

Rice said DHS wants to have long-term investment of its personnel, which means ensuring employees have the ability to move across the agency to have a wider understanding of the mission.

DHS established the cyber talent management system, which ensures components understand and use the hiring, retention and recruitment tools available.

“Cyber is not an easily defined skillset or talent or source of expertise because it’s very broad. We have security architecture, cyber forensics, cyber analysts and the ability to do remediation so there are different degrees of requirements. And if you look across DHS, everyone needs a different level of capability,” Rice said. “If you look at the types of skills we have you have a different level of depths of talent at certain components. We are all identifying critical need positions in our organizational structure and communicating that to our CHCO. In addition, it’s allowing for an open conversation about how do we start recruiting the talent and inform the positions that are available.”

Graves and Rice say employees who have cyber or cloud or data skills become even more important as the government goes further down the path of IT modernization.

Graves said AI and automation are changing the workforce similar to how the industrial revolution changed the nation’s workers.

As part of the administration’s government reorganization and reform plan, OMB and DHS set a goal by the end of fiscal 2019 for all CFO and non-CFO Act agencies to have a prioritized list of critical vacancies. OMB and DHS will analyze these lists and work with OPM to develop a whole-of-government approach to identifying or recruiting new employees or reskilling existing employees.

The administration also believes 5 percent of all government work could be entirely automated and another 60 percent of all occupations could have at least 30 percent of their work automated.

“We have to understand we have moved into a realm where we don’t deliver IT the way we used to deliver it, and these abilities to work with a minimal viable product, to work in a dev/ops environment, to use the kind of coding we do today, unwind the infrastructure and putting the user in the middle of the conversation constantly,” she said. “These are the only you achieve success.”

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