George Batsakis is the executive vice president and chief strategy officer of 1901 Group.
“We live at a momentous time in history. Technology is changing everything — how we relate to one another, how we work, how are economies and government’s function, and even what it means to be human.” Klaus Schwab, author, “Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
We serve customer #1, the largest procurer of IT and technology services in the world: the U.S. federal government. The federal government buys more, consumes more and develops more IT than any other entity in the history of the modern world.
If you’ve been in this market for a while, either in government or as part of the huge supporting industry, you’ve seen your fair share of change. Accelerated technology adoption, industry consolidation, mergers and acquisitions, overseas “contingency” operations, an economic reset or two, and recently, a global pandemic have revolutionized the face of IT — and we aren’t prepared for the future just yet.
The #1 challenge facing the government’s desire to modernize is the workforce — namely, availability and access to a skilled workforce to transition government IT to “next-generation” capabilities.
The IT Workforce of the Future
This new era of technological advancements unleashes generational change for the government technology workforce. According to Peter Diamandis in his recent book, “The Future is Faster than You Think:”
“The decade to come will be filled with radical breakthroughs and world changing surprises… every industry on the planet will be completely reimagined. For innovators, for leaders, for anyone sufficiently nimble and adventurous, the opportunities will be incredible.”
“Fourth Industrial Revolution” or “Industrial Revolution 4.0” describe the pace and extent of technological and societal changes happening now. It is imperative to avoid technological and economic obsolescence. To do so, government and industry must develop a strategy to create the “workforce of the future.”
A groundswell of support in government materialized to take advantage of the cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other forms of automation to improve financial and operational efficiencies. This newfound emphasis on next-generation technologies exposed critical skills and capacity gaps in our current workforce and the traditional government contractor’s ability to deliver the complex IT services the government needs. Based on the growing number of next-generation technology related job openings in the government contractor community, it’s clear that the demand for talent is growing rapidly.
Recently the White House American Workforce Policy Board, comprised of leaders of industry, urged the government and private industry to invest in a new technological infrastructure and workforce. Such an investment would help to bolster the pandemic weakened economy and facilitate the transformation of an aging government IT infrastructure.
Workforce 4.0 – a Path for the Future
Some federal government agencies have taken bold steps to modernize and take advantage of next-generation technology. Many of these next-gen services are delivered in cost effective and labor efficient “utilities” through “as a service” delivery models. These agencies have proven to be the most resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic and offer a framework for other agencies and industry suppliers to emulate.
To follow in their footsteps, the government and industry must develop a workforce to support the changing IT service delivery models. This workforce will need skills in emerging technologies and practices. People that makeup this new workforce will need proven IT service companies to invest in training, certifications, and mentorships with senior technology leaders. These tangible steps will create the workforce of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Workforce 4.0.
The concept of a Workforce 4.0 is built on four core tenants:
Develop and scale the workforce inside and outside of conventional locations, capitalizing on available talent in rural or otherwise untapped labor markets. As this new Industrial Revolution picks up speed, there are regions left behind as automation and innovation makes traditional careers obsolete. These communities are hungry for new ways to drive economic growth. The industry needs to look outside the D.C.-area or other saturated federal government labor markets to build the IT workforce of tomorrow.
Build and skill the workforce with certifications and training. More people than ever are entering higher education, and the workforce is inundated with educated candidates seeking entry-level positions. Investing in the long-term development of today’s workforce will ensure continued progress in technology and the economy.
Sustain and retain the workforce by creating a company culture that gives people a compelling reason to stay. The next-gen government IT workforce is in high demand. Healthy work environments, opportunities for career growth and flexibility, and a challenging, satisfying mission make the potential for “talent drain” less of an issue.
Lead with innovation by offering the workforce access to emerging technologies through public/private partnerships and relationships with academia. We know the pace of technological change will only get faster. It’s an imperative that the industry continue to evolve, we leverage those innovations to deliver greater value to our customers.
Each of the four components of Workforce 4.0 have been coded into 1901 Group’s DNA over its 10-year history. Our two Enterprise IT Operations Centers were established in underdeveloped regions of Virginia to realize potential talent and expand our capabilities.1901 Group leverages our diverse workforce to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers through our cost-effective “as a service” business model
Next Steps Toward the Workforce of the Future
The mission at hand is vital to our economy and national security. As in times past, success will depend on the availability and acumen of the workforce charged with making it all happen. Revolutionizing the federal government’s infrastructure will attract some of the best and the brightest if we can make strategic changes in the public and private sector. The IT industry must invest in people; their skills, their careers and their communities. For the government’s part, a policy shift to more cost-effective managed service delivery models instead of conventional labor-based IT services is crucial. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an opportunity to make our government safer and more effective in a tumultuous time. Don’t let it pass you by.