Agencies plan for developing data science talent
The Data Science Training Pilot gives agencies a chance to see the benefits of data science projects while reskilling employees.
Acknowledging the widespread need for data scientists across federal government, the Census Bureau is teaming up with the Federal CIO Council and Office of Personnel Management to launch the Data Science Training Pilot.
The program, which is expected to start in January 2020, comes after OPM’s Associate Director of Employee Services Mark Reinhold issued guidance advising agencies how best to classify data science-related occupations such as statisticians and IT specialists. The draft Federal Data Science Action Plan, which was published the same month as Reinhold’s memo, laid out specific steps and goals for agencies to begin the process of leveraging data as a strategic asset.
Lisa Frid, workforce transformation program manager for the Census Bureau, said that incentivizing career growth for existing employees and fostering retention were two goals that the Census and its program partners hoped to achieve as they focus on developing data scientists. In remarks made at a Dec. 3 event hosted by NextGov, Frid said the pilot would give up to 50 applicants the opportunity to take both online and in-person data science classes to retrain themselves for more data science-oriented work. In addition to OPM, 40 other agencies and departments such as the Office of Management and Budget are participating in the program.
However, Frid said, this program “is more than just sending a bunch of students to a very expensive school around the corner, or a costly degree, or even a certificate online. We’re going to provide direct mentorship to students from data scientists within the Census Bureau.” Frid also said students would be given a data-science project to not only apply the skills they would learn, but also let participating agencies see firsthand how effective learning opportunities could help them leverage data science.
“We’re letting [organizations] test the processes and reap some of those benefits, ” she said. “The capstone project is all about letting those agencies test out of 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.”