man pushing "new career" button (Olivier Le Moal/Shutterstock.com)

1,500 feds apply to cyber training program

When the administration's Cyber Reskilling Academy began accepting submissions for hands-on cybersecurity training for non-technical applicants, it received nearly 1,500 applications in 50 days.

According to Federal CIO Suzette Kent, nearly half of the applicants were between GS-5 and GS-11 on the government pay scale. Those applicants just completed initial assessments, with the first 25-person cohort expected to be selected by April 1 before  three months of training kicks off April 15.

The pilot is envisioned as a vehicle for filling the cybersecurity talent gap by  transitioning members of the existing federal workforce to high-level cybersecurity work. It also aims to counter the looming prospect of automation that could lead to the elimination of lower level, manual-driven data entry and analysis positions.

Jeffrey Neal, senior vice president at ICF and a former federal agency chief human capital officer, said that that lower on the GS-scale would be "the right level to target" for a reskilling program looking to convert non-IT professionals into cybersecurity specialists. The initial cohort of 25 candidates will likely serve as a proof of concept for the program, with the ability for "a more rapid scale-up if the demand is there."

A senior administration official said OMB was not aiming for a specific demographic or GS-scale with the academy, saying the only qualifications to apply were that the applicant be a current federal employee who doesn't work in the IT field.

"Federal employees from all backgrounds and general schedule ranges were encouraged and welcomed to apply," the official said.

Kent indicated that the level of interest in the program was higher than expected, tweeting that the 1,500 applicants "shows there's a great desire" for the program in the federal workforce.

OMB previously said it is planning a second cohort of students in 2019, which will be open to IT professionals and non-IT professionals alike. Neal said that while the program is almost certainly capable of scaling up, it is likely that agency interest will drive the program's longevity and success over the long term.  

"The best measure of success is going to be demand," said Neal. "If agencies want to use the program or replicate it themselves, it is successful. If not, then we learn something and adapt."

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are also looking into ways to fill workforce gaps with existing personnel. For the past two years, Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Peter Hoeven (R-N.D.) have introduced the Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Act, which would make it easier for current cyber specialists in the federal government to detail at other agencies experiencing a shortage of trained staff.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee reported favorably on the bill last session, and a legislative report noted that it would complement cyber and workforce initiatives laid out in the Trump administration's Presidential Management Agenda. The Congressional Budget Office reported Feb. 28 that implementing the legislation would cost about $500,000 annually between 2019 and 2024 for new regulations, staff training and administrative expenses.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a senior staff writer at FCW, covering governmentwide IT policy, cybersecurity and a range of other federal technology issues.

Prior to joining FCW, Johnson was a freelance technology journalist. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, GoodCall News, Foreign Policy Journal, Washington Technology, Elevation DC, Connection Newspapers and The Maryland Gazette.

Johnson has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Hofstra University and a Master's degree in public policy from George Mason University. He can be contacted at djohnson@fcw.com, or follow him on Twitter @derekdoestech.

Click here for previous articles by Johnson.


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