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Meet the Impending Federal Data Strategy Deadline: Tips to Ensure Upskilling Success

The Federal Data Strategy (FDS) describes a 10-year vision for how the federal government will accelerate the use of data while protecting security, privacy and confidentiality. All executive branch agencies will implement the strategy with guidance from annual governmentwide Action Plans. These Action Plans will prioritize steps and build on progress from year to year.

Federal Data Strategy 2020 Action Plan & Deadlines

The Federal Data Strategy’s 2020 Action Plan is essential for agencies to establish processes, build capacity and align existing efforts to better leverage data as a strategic asset.

The next deadline for Agency Action completion is September 30, 2020, which encompasses Actions 1-3 and components of Action 4. The remaining sections of Action 4 and Action 5 are due at the end of the year, while Action 6 has been delayed due to COVID-19.

In order to meet the next set of deadlines, agencies must complete Action 4, which requires agencies to assess the coverage, quality, methods and effectiveness of current staff data literacy and data skills. Agencies must also create a skill gap analysis to determine additional critical skills required among staff and develop a strategy to close the identified data skills and literacy gaps.

Action 4: Identify Opportunities to Increase Staff Data Skills

  1. Identify critical data skills needed for the agency.
  2. Assess the current staff capacity for those data skills.
  3. Perform a data skills gap analysis to prioritize the agency’s needs.
  4. Identify and execute approaches to fill those needs.

According to the FDS team, “options for increasing staff skills capacity may include new analysis or other software tools, easy-to-use dashboards, additional training and educational opportunities, on-the-job rotational learning experiences, participation in data-related communities of practice, and introducing hiring and retention strategies to address gaps.”

Why was the Federal Data Strategy created?

The government has a troubling workforce age gap in the number of federal technical workers in their 20s, which has dropped every year since 2010. Intrinsically, the age gap isn’t a problem, but it reveals an unbalanced talent pipeline with a significant skills gap as well.

The Government Accountability Office said skills gaps contributed to 49% of all governmentwide high risks areas. As of 2017, average time-to-hire in the government was 106 days as compared with 22.9 days for businesses across the United States. Combine that with an aging workforce, where nearly two-thirds of the federal IT workforce is over 40 years of age, and the urgency for effective upskilling is unequivocal.

Building a Strategy & Choosing an Online Learning Platform

In order for agencies to construct a detailed skills gap analysis, objective data must be aggregated based on each individual’s current competency level. Once the skills gaps are established, a strategy must be devised to upskill each individual based on competency, role alignment, framework alignment (NIST-NICE, DCWF, etc.) and career progression. With the absence of instructor-led training, more agencies will need to rely on online training platforms to create a successful strategy concentrated on baselining and upskilling their personnel.

An Executive Order signed on June 2020 elevated the focus of skills over certifications for hiring federal workers. Look for learning partners that have a deep focus on technical skills and can construct a customized learning path based on your agency’s job roles, frameworks and individual skill gap analyses. As technology and responsibilities change, this would allow those already in alignment to the job role to “pivot” according to the new skill adjacencies and have the correct role in place for those newly assigned to that role. The concept of a role or training path needs to be as flexible as the industry that it exists within.

Three Key Takeaways for Choosing a Learning Partner

  1. Choose a partner that can assess a user’s proficiency prior to beginning skill development so that skill development can be specifically tailored to each individual user.
  2. Invest in a partner that creates dynamic alignment with existing job roles and frameworks to provide dynamics course progression and proper staffing of current and future projects.
  3. Leverage a learning partner that can measure outcomes to provide objective analytics, giving insight into successes and challenges, allowing government business leaders to drive more realistic goals and better empower employees.

Bianca Cordeiro, Solutions Architect at Pluralsight, has served as a consultant and trainer for federal agencies and government contractors since 2013. Her breadth of experience includes creating successful training programs, implementing cloud platforms, and leveraging commercial best practices to enhance government initiatives. Her current focus is to help government employees grow their careers through data-driven decisions.

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