Federal Manager's Daily Report

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Federal agencies should provide regular training specifically for enhancing employees’ data skills and to improve data literacy across all job series beyond those skills, according to feedback to a request for information from the Chief Data Officers Council.

“When thinking about data literacy, respondents suggested the federal government focus on overall improvement at the enterprise level, including the general workforce, day-to-day roles, and leadership roles,” says a posting on cdo.gov summarizing the responses.

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Recommendations included that agencies should: upskill their workforces by identifying the level of data acumen needed by different groups in the organization; build the type of culture needed to support upskilling, including the upskilling of the non-technical staff and executive leadership; make more use of special hiring authorities, scholarships and other incentives; and “look beyond degrees alone and consider hiring individuals with desirable experience regardless of their educational background.”

“Respondents stated that agencies should set aside funds specifically for data skills improvement. They also noted that training on leading edge data technology, robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning should be emphasized,” it said.

The CDO council is among the newer of the federal C-suite level councils, created in 2020 under the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act. A survey of its members last year similarly showed that “limited staff skills or workforce hiring challenges” was the most commonly cited obstacle to agencies in the area, above technical, budgetary and other challenges. Later it issued the RFI to help it set priorities and received input from what it called a “diverse range of stakeholders, including those from the federal government, industry, civil society, and academia.”

Other common themes of the responses included: acting on the potential for comprehensive data management programs within and across agencies, better leveraging machine learning, breaking down data silos and more cooperation with government at other levels. The council said the feedback “will inform the council’s efforts and have been shared with the relevant groups in the council.”

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