Artificial intelligence-driven innovation requires top talent to drive agencies’ missions forward, and Federal officials this week shared how their agencies are building and recruiting their AI workforces.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has spent the last few years building and strongly recruiting for its AI workforce, according to Gil Alterovitz, director of the VA’s National Artificial Intelligence Institute.

During an event hosted by GovCIO Media & Research on Feb. 10, Alterovitz highlighted three areas that VA has been piloting and working toward “to improve that AI workforce and that development.” The first, he said, is piloting a new data scientist job description that focuses on skills, instead of only on college degrees.

The second, he said, “is that we worked on, served as subject matter experts toward the new data science series that was recently announced by OPM [Office of Personnel Management], and that’s going to be across all agencies.”

The third and final is the VA is “working toward building pathways” and “developing and assessing that AI knowledge” through the Talent Education and Assessment Management System, or TEAMS.

“We’re working with a number of other agencies and really the idea there is to build that pipeline of talent with AI knowledge both from outside government, inside the government, so that the result of that would be an agile and responsive Federal workforce equipped with the necessary competencies for AI,” Alterovitz said.

Martin Stanley, the branch chief of strategic technology at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), echoed that AI workforce development is a hot topic across government right now.

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“AI workforce development is something that is a really big focus of the Federal government at the Federal level as well as DHS at the department level, and we participate in all those areas,” Stanley said during the event. “And that’s identifying roles that we need to bring in, talent that we need to source, all of those kinds of things. And in particular, the use cases that we’re focused on.”

Those use cases include security orchestration, analytics, and the protection of emerging technologies such as AI, Stanley said.

As far as recruitment efforts go to find top AI talent, Scarlett Swerdlow, the deputy director of the Defense Digital Service, emphasized it’s important to “meet candidates where they’re at.”

For Swerdlow, she said this means posting jobs on LinkedIn, not on the Federal government’s USAJOBS site.

“Product managers, user experience designers, full-stack developers, data scientists, such as myself, we might be interested in supporting the mission of the Federal government, but we’re not looking for jobs on USAJOBS,” Swerdlow said. “The most important thing is to sort of go where these candidates are already looking for work.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.