Brendan Walsh is senior vice president of partner relations at 1901 Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos. He leads partner relations and management efforts and supports business development activities in addition to establishing strategic business alliances with leading cloud service providers and security solutions.
This piece has been edited for style.
2020 obviously brought unprecedented change in how we learn, work and socialize, but it also capped a decade that demonstrated how and why workforce development and rural job creation are not only critical for economic resiliency but essential for our national security.
Linking workforce development and rural job creation to economic resiliency and national security may seem like a bold statement, so let’s consider: 1) a formula for sustainable and scalable job creation (rural or urban), 2) the impact this formula has on our economy and security, and 3) what Americans can do to participate, depending on their roles in our society.
First, a formula for sustainable and scalable job creation includes a combination of human talent supply coordinated with digital modernization that includes elements of technology, automation, infrastructure and cybersecurity in rural locations. Why the emphasis on rural locations?
The answer is all around us: With COVID-19 highlighting how densely populated locations (urban) can be impacted by disease and disasters, having a diversified workforce and work locations is essential for governmental and corporate continuity of operations plans.
This formula also includes technology, automation, infrastructure and cybersecurity, all of which are necessary to keep up with the incredible speed of change we all are facing, as well as ensuring jobs created today have the staying power to remain the jobs of the future.
Simply put, by aligning education and training with global skills trends and locating more jobs in rural locations that have the necessary processes and resources (including internet access), our people and rural communities can scale in a sustainable way that strengthens our economic resiliency.
Second, the impact this formula has on our economy and security can be seen now as COVID-19 has accelerated the Fourth Industrial Revolution, expanding the digitalization of human interaction, e-commerce, online education and remote work. These shifts will transform society long after the pandemic and these shifts promise huge benefits — the ability to telework and rapid vaccine development are two examples — but they also risk creating and exacerbating inequalities.
Therefore, this formula also gives promise of reducing the national risk of “digital inequality” in the short term. Similarly, for the long term, addressing the talent deficit and creating rural jobs not only strengthens our economic resiliency but also provides the technology skills, especially cybersecurity and cloud, that our public and private sectors need to compete globally, which is critical to our nation’s security.
Third, what Americans can do to help or call to action. Respective CTAs depend on specific roles, and there are four profiles of people involved in this workforce development and jobs creation process: individuals or employees, educators, public officials and employers.
- Individuals or employees pertain to workers who are interested in re-skilling or pursuing additional training in order to satisfy job requirements and the ever-growing demand for technology-savvy and resilient talent.
- Educators pertain to high school and college level teachers and administrators, as well as, reskilling and training organizations such as the Virginia Ready Initiative, Virginia Values Veterans, and AWS ReStart, who can develop and deliver needed education to individuals, while promoting educational programs and curricula among interested employers and public officials. One example of positive activity is how the Virginia Ready Initiative is hosting resume building and interviewing workshops to help prepare out-of-work Virginians and recently graduated students to enter the job market. VA Ready is also putting together an employer advisory board to help raise employer participation across the commonwealth.
- Public officials focus on federal/state/local government policy that can: a) develop financial/accounting mechanisms that incentivize businesses to invest in workforce development similar to incentives for purchasing and depreciating corporate assets. Sen. Mark Warner cited this point in a recent podcast, How the Tech Sector is Upskilling the Workforce, and b) empower decision-makers who can help fund workforce development initiatives and incentivize employers to support rural job creation. The Small Business Administration has extensive incentive programs fostering several socio-economic categories of companies and work, which could include socio-economic programs that encourage rural employment and remote work. Public officials should also increase the use of evidence-based policymaking that leverages a growing amount of labor data including information on the COVID-19 pandemic. This emphasizes the importance of timely, locally relevant data and evidence, particularly in the context of jobs and economic opportunity. Much of this data resides in state agencies, such as departments of Labor, Education, Human Services, and Corrections. However, several states have been developing new and successful collaboratives, such as the Midwest Collaborative and the Coleridge Initiative, which use these data by sharing information in secure facilities and developing applied training programs. The goal is to build sustainable state-driven collaboratives that focus on local needs while enabling a truly national data infrastructure to evolve, and activities include helping states develop unemployment-to-reemployment portals and holding training workshops such as the one at Coleridge Initiative.
- Employers span small, medium and large for profit and not-for-profit organizations, that can include workforce development as an integral part of their HR programs in order to identify, train and retain technology talent, as well as incorporating more rural jobs into their standard operating procedures and concepts of operations. I am proud to share that my employer in 2020 exceeded our goals of hiring veterans, so every job hire is important.
Months ago, we could take the time to reimagine what life would be like during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, but now, for a brief period of time, we have an opportunity to take actions based on our role or roles in society. These actions can be sustainable and scalable to help citizens without creating a burden on our resources and can benefit people and communities throughout the country in both rural and urban locations.
Our actions or inactions will have irrevocable impact on our workforce resiliency, our continuity of federal/state/local government services, and our national security for years to come.