Data analytics is in hot demand and the government is taking notice. In June 2019, the draft Federal Data Science Action Plan was issued, which “describes a ten-year vision for how the Federal government will accelerate the use of data to support the foundations of democracy, deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while protecting security, privacy, and confidentiality.”
Further evidence of the government’s focus on big data analytics can be found in a new program designed to encourage federal employees to grow their data science acumen. In January 2020, the Data Science Training Pilot will launch to help employees retrain themselves for more data science-oriented work. A joint effort between the Census Bureau, the Federal CIO Council, and the Office of Personnel Management, the pilot is designed for up to 50 applicants and will feature a combination of online and in-person classes.
In a recent FCW article Lisa Frid, the Census Bureau’s workforce transformation program manager, was quoted as saying, “We’re going to provide direct mentorship to students from data scientists within the Census Bureau.” She elaborated that students will be given data science projects to not only apply their newfound skills but also allow the 40 participating agencies to see firsthand how training employees in data-related fields can drive better outcomes.
According to Frid, “We’re letting [organizations] test the processes and reap some of those benefits. The capstone project is all about letting those agencies test out some of their processes and see how they would benefit from the new data science techniques and get the new IT environment ready for them.”
Frid and her colleagues hope the Data Science Training Pilot will give the Bureau skilled data science talent from its existing resource pool, mitigating the perennial government hiring challenge of competing against the deeper pockets of the private sector. As she put it, “We don’t have the money and the funds. We just can’t attract the talent, and then once we do get them in the door, it’s hard to retain them. As our work evolves, the workforce must change with it.”
The first cohort of employees participating in the re-skilling program will be notified within the coming weeks, and you can bet Frid and the others involved in the pilot will be closely monitoring and analyzing its outcomes. As data science only grows more vital to organizations in every vertical and sector, it will be interesting to see whether other industries embark on similar pilot programs.