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Preparing the federal workforce: Tech trends for 2024 (and beyond)

Learn how government agencies can upskill the federal workforce and navigate tech trends in 2024, including the AI executive order, to spur government innovation.

Feb 16, 2024 • 4 Minute Read

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  • Public Sector
  • Software Development
  • Data
  • AI & Machine Learning
  • Learning & Development

President Biden’s executive order (EO) on safe, secure, and trustworthy AI has prompted federal agencies to accelerate AI adoption. We explain how agencies can implement the guidance and prepare the federal workforce for other tech trends in 2024 and beyond.

Want to uncover more tech predictions from tech leaders and learn what you can do to get ahead? Download the 2024 Tech Forecast.

Table of contents

AI integration for government agencies: Short-term steps towards the AI EO

While agencies have begun preparing the federal workforce for AI technology, there are several things they still need to do to achieve the EO’s goals and see long-term success. 

“In essence, 2024 will focus on enabling the foundations, ecosystems, and initial coordinating work to set up the longer-term horizon objectives of the order, while demonstrating momentum and continued investment in the administration’s AI priorities,” said Tony Holmes, Pluralsight’s Practice Lead for Solutions Architects, Public Sector.

He identified three short-term actions agencies will need to take to align with the AI EO.

1. Conduct public sector AI research and funding

Agencies will expand research and pilot funding opportunities from science agencies such as the National Science Foundation to uncover privacy-preserving techniques and sector-specific AI research. This research will drive future AI investments and government innovation.

2. Update policies and protocols for AI

Agencies will need to update their procurement protocols to be more nimble and acquire AI tools faster. As the scarcity and high costs of hiring specialized AI talent become more pronounced, it is crucial for these agencies to shift their focus toward intensifying upskilling and reskilling programs for their existing workforce. 

This strategic emphasis on internal talent cultivation not only offers a more sustainable and cost-effective approach to building AI capabilities but also ensures a resilient workforce equipped to navigate the evolving AI landscape.

3. Establish key metrics for measuring success

Agencies will use benchmarking and data collection to track metrics on the usage, effectiveness, and adoption of AI systems in federal settings. This information will help us understand how agencies are using AI, where it’s making an impact on mission-critical objectives, and what AI maturity might look like. 

Read more about the AI executive order.

Long-term AI challenges: Foundational work for government tech transformation

Acting now will help agencies address the long-term challenges of AI adoption

Compliance, privacy regulations, and ethical concerns

Some of the biggest AI challenges are tied to the data that powers AI models and large language models (LLMs). As agencies adopt AI, they’ll need to protect sensitive data, maintain data visibility, and ensure quality outputs to minimize data privacy, reduce the risk of ethical dilemmas, and comply with AI frameworks and guidance.

Budget constraints and legacy infrastructure

While AI can streamline and reduce certain costs, budget and infrastructure constraints may become an issue down the road. As Tony noted, “Many agencies lack modern data management, computing power, and tools required to support advanced AI models.”

To support long-term AI integration, agencies will need to modernize. “Industry can provide technology resources, platform access, and guidance on building scalable data pipelines,” said Tony.

Empowering government employees: Investing in AI skills for the federal workforce

The most pressing challenge, though, is the AI skills gap. There’s a shortage of AI/ML experts, and government agencies struggle to compete with private sector organizations. “The AI market is highly competitive, and agencies struggle with hiring and keeping qualified personnel,” explained Tony.

To overcome this hurdle, Tony recommended investing in AI skill development for federal workers and reskilling current employees instead of hiring new talent. Focus on building AI skills across the agency. That includes basic AI foundations and knowledge, as well as hands-on applications for more advanced skills and tools.

While AI is definitely top of mind for agencies, it isn’t the only tech trend to prepare for in 2024 and beyond.

Essential tech skills will become even more important

As AI advances, it will augment data science, cloud, and cybersecurity—and government employees will need the skills to keep up. AI skills will be critical, but don’t forget about other essential tech skills, like cloud computing concepts and services, data science and data analytics, coding proficiency, and cybersecurity best practices.

AI will change how government employees learn

It can take years for government employees to be fully trained and mission capable. This is especially true for cybersecurity roles.

AI will change the way people learn, and you can take advantage of this new technology to train the federal workforce and deliver on mission-critical initiatives faster. Generative AI, for example, can create custom training and development programs for government employees based on their roles, skill levels, or upcoming projects. As a result, employees can skip the information they already know and focus on learning new skills or deepening their knowledge.

Download the 2024 Tech Forecast.

Security threats will increase in number and complexity

Throughout 2024, threat actors will exploit existing security vulnerabilities while exposing new risks. For example, threat actors will use deep fakes to gain access to systems. AI will also allow threat actors to develop more complex malware. Government employees will need to understand these new attack vectors and build soft skills like critical thinking to defend against these threats.

Learn how agencies can build a security talent pipeline.

Embracing technological advancements in government agencies

“Widespread internal AI expertise will be critical to driving accountability and responsibility in deployment,” said Tony. “Training benchmarking and outcomes should be part of a broader set of success metrics tracked over time. Without an AI-literate workforce, policies on paper may have little practical impact.”

The same is true for other emerging technologies and tech trends. The federal workforce needs relevant upskilling opportunities to comply with new legislation, foster an innovation culture, and achieve their mission.

Ready to start upskilling your government employees? Learn how Pluralsight helps government agencies build tech skills, get hands-on applications, and deliver mission-critical outcomes faster.

Pluralsight Content Team

Pluralsight C.

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