The top 3 reasons the federal government should embrace non-graduates to bridge the tech skills gap

By prioritizing skills over degrees, government agencies can significantly expand their talent pool and tap into a wealth of often-overlooked candidates.

The government’s traditional reliance on degrees and tactical skills for tech recruitment is falling short in the face of exponential change. While linear thinking may be our default mode, it’s time we adopt a more exponential mindset to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology.

Some forward-thinkers are already challenging the status quo, from Trump’s 2020 executive order prioritizing skills over degrees to the Office of Personnel Management guidance to the recent introduction of the bipartisan ACCESS Act in Congress. It’s clear that change is on the horizon.

So let’s look at the top three reasons non-graduates are uniquely positioned to help government agencies bridge the tech skills gap:

1. Driving innovation through diverse experiences

Non-graduates often enter the tech industry through unconventional paths — rigorous apprenticeships, self-directed learning or honing their skills in entirely different fields. This diversity of experience is a powerful asset for driving innovation and breaking free from the Einstellung Effect that can plague government problem-solving.

These individuals bring a unique blend of hands-on knowledge and theoretical understanding, enabling them to develop creative solutions that can revolutionize public service delivery. In an environment where overcoming entrenched thinking is crucial, non-graduates’ fresh perspectives can be the key to pushing technological boundaries and reimagining what’s possible.

2. Thriving in the face of rapid technological change

The breakneck pace of technological change demands a workforce that can adapt on the fly — a strength many non-graduates possess in spades. Their self-directed learning experiences and ability to quickly master new skills make them invaluable in the ever-shifting government tech landscape.

Non-graduates’ resilience, born from navigating challenges without the traditional support of academia, is a critical asset in an environment where policies, technologies and public needs are constantly evolving. Their agility ensures that government agencies can stay responsive and effective, no matter what technological curveballs come their way.

3. Expanding access to talent and driving cost-efficiency

By prioritizing skills over degrees, government agencies can significantly expand their talent pool and tap into a wealth of often-overlooked candidates. This approach not only promotes greater inclusivity but also offers substantial financial benefits.

Non-graduates often command lower starting salaries than their degree-holding counterparts, a significant consideration in budget-conscious public sectors. Moreover, by focusing on skills and performance, agencies can foster a more competitive and dynamic workforce where employees are motivated to excel based on real-world contributions rather than just their educational pedigree.

Embracing non-graduates in government tech roles represents a bold step towards a more agile, innovative and cost-effective public sector. By valuing diverse experiences, adaptability and practical skills, agencies can enrich their workforce and elevate their service to the public.

However, successfully integrating non-graduates requires more than just a change in hiring practices. Robust tools which align roles with AI-driven skill assessments and targeted microlearning, while ensuring leaders have actionable data-driven insights from skills analytics are essential for ensuring that all team members can thrive in this new paradigm.

As technology continues to evolve exponentially, our hiring practices must keep up. We need to shake up the status quo and build a government workforce ready to tackle tomorrow’s technological challenges.

Tony Holmes is Practice Lead for Solutions Architects Public Sector at Pluralsight.

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