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How to fill your federal agency’s cloud computing jobs

May 17, 2023

Federal agencies increased their cloud computing spend in 2021 by more than 20%, largely due to pandemic lockdowns and work-from-home mandates, which upended traditional priorities for government agencies across the board. Even as these agencies restructure their tech stacks to include more cloud computing services, they’re realizing the tech itself isn’t their biggest challenge. It’s their people.

Watch the full recording of Drew Firment’s chat with Assistant VP of Cloud Center at the Federal Reserve System, Chris Barker, and Chief Architect at DVLA, Matt Lewis.

Federal agencies struggle to fill cloud computing jobs

The market for cloud developers is really competitive, and government agencies aren’t competing just within their industry for that talent. They have to go up against the compensation and benefits packages private sector businesses use to entice new talent. Without some of those same levers to pull—like competitive compensation, stock options, and remote or flexible work—agencies are competing with one hand tied behind their backs.

So, you’re left with two alternatives: augment with third-party contractors or train the teams you already have.

Augmentation requires standards and strategies to keep third-party contractors and in-house teams on the same page, using the same technologies, tagging strategies, and naming conventions. Most organizations, when they need augmentation to prove the value of cloud, are missing these critical pieces that allow for economies of scale.

But in addition to proving the value of cloud, these third-party contractors can also prove the value of having a dedicated, trained, and engaged cloud workforce. They’re able to stand up new services and deliver value quickly. The knowledge they have isn’t proprietary or confidential. It’s just knowledge your team doesn’t have . . . yet.

Build the cloud skills you need in-house

You already have the people you need to succeed in the cloud. They might even be more valuable than a new hire because they know where all the skeletons are hidden in your data center. But it requires you to spend the time and money to upskill that talent to reap the reward.

Fortunately, it’s a win-win all around. According to our 2023 State of Upskilling report, 97% of HR directors prioritize upskilling talent over hiring for new skills. And 94% of employees are more likely to stay with an agency that invests in their skill development. And yet, only 50% of agencies have an actionable, programmatic plan to skill up their workforce in preparation for their cloud transformation. 

Putting time on a calendar, dropping some links in a Slack channel, and saying you want to prioritize developing your agency’s internal cloud skills isn’t the same as actually developing your internal cloud skills. You need a cloud skill development strategy.

What is a cloud skill development strategy?

A cloud skill development strategy looks at where your employees are now, identifies the cloud skills you need to achieve specific outcomes in the future, and maps a path for your employees to grow their skills in a way that drives mission-critical objectives.

It starts with building baseline literacy using courses and certifications, and then encouraging cloud fluency with labs, sandboxes, and hands-on experiences. Once your teams know the basics, a cloud skill development strategy provides an opportunity for continuous learning with career paths, learning cohorts, and mentorship programs. Ultimately, it creates a culture of cloud that develops advocates and champions that build communities of learning in your organization.

How to build a cloud skill development strategy for your agency

The purpose of a cloud skill development strategy is to build the skills you need to drive cloud transformation in your organization. But to make sure you have the right skills, you need to know what goals you’re chasing and the overall cloud strategy you plan to use to meet those goals. From there, you can identify the skills you need and develop your cloud training program accordingly.

Engage your leaders

Your first step should be to align with your leaders. You need to understand your organization’s mission and goals, and then show your leaders how your cloud strategy empowers your organization to meet those goals. Once you know your objectives, you can work with your HR and L&D teams to design a cloud training program that prepares your team to meet and exceed leadership expectations.

Develop a cloud training program

Training programs provide guidance for the 30% of technologists who don’t know where to focus their skills and the 25% who aren’t sure which resources to use. They empower your cloud teams to develop the right skills using tools you already have in your toolkit as part of their Agile sprints or overall job responsibilities. 

In short: You need more than  links. 

A cloud training program should cover the basics of cloud literacy, the hands-on experiences of working in cloud tools every day, and the continuous learning protocols to keep pace with the changing technology.

Build literacy with cloud certifications

Cloud certifications are the go-to for HR, L&D, and tech leaders when developing their cloud training programs. And they're a good starting place. Certifications establish the language technologists use when talking about the cloud or a particular platform. It’s the baseline literacy test.

You can help support your team achieve cloud certifications with on-demand or in-person training and seminars, study guides, and assessments like Pluralsight’s Skill IQ. These types of tools give technologists an understanding of where they are so they know where to focus their learning efforts for each certification.

Build fluency with hands-on tools

But cloud certifications aren’t the end-all, be-all. They don’t prove that a technologist can walk into a cloud environment and know what they’re doing. Labs, simulated sandboxes, and custom sandbox environments allow your cloud developers an opportunity to get their hands dirty—to see how the tools function in a hassle-free, worry-free way before they ever touch your production environments.

Build continuous learning with community

Learning isn’t done in a vacuum. The greatest strength a cloud expert has is their community. You can build your own community of cloud learning within your organization through formalized mentorship programs, gamification, study groups, and meetups designed to bring all your cloud minds together into one place. When you empower your cloud teams to work together, to workshop ideas and find cloud solutions, you go from consuming cloud services and talent to creating them in-house.