With the launch of a brand-new arm, the federal government is taking on its long-held reputation of appealing to only more experienced tech talent.
The newly anointed U.S. Digital Corps is launching a fellowship for early-stage technologists interested in the public sector and federal government careers. Recent graduates of school, apprenticeships and bootcamps can apply for a two-year program that combines technology and public service. In the program, 30 fellows will be deployed to different federal agencies and work on using tech for solutions in economic recovery, racial equity, COVID-19 response, healthcare and the climate. The fellowship will begin in 2022, with apps opening this fall.
The Digital Corps launched in August in a collaboration between the General Services Administration (GSA), White House Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It’s operated through the GSA’s Technology Transformation Services (TTS), a facet which applies tech solutions to the public sector.
The goal, Deputy Commissioner of the GSA and Director of the TTS David Zvenyach told Technical.ly, is to build young and early-career talent within the federal government space. The Digital Corps will be looking for a broad range of applicants from across the country, and although experience in the civic technology space will be useful, Zvenyach said he’s open to candidates with all sorts of backgrounds. In addition to those with strong data science and software engineering skills, the Corps is seeking strong communicators, translators and those able to work in nontraditional tech environments.
“There’d always been this missing piece, which is that we hadn’t really found ways to bring mid- to early-career technologists in the government,” Zvenyach said. “That has always been a challenge for us, and one of the things that I was really excited to work on in the new administration was to try to solve that. The Digital Corps program is part of that solution.”
Early-career technologists, he said, are an asset in that they can look at problems with fresh eyes and offer outside-the-box solutions. But he added that developing early-career talent can also help boost mid- and senior-level technologists, as well.
“One of the things that I’m excited about is having early-career technologists bringing even more innovation to the government,” Zvenyach said. “One of the opportunities that we have with early-career technologists is that we recognize that the skills that we need are ever changing. So having early-career technologists, we’re going to be learning from them as much as they’re going to be learning from us.”
For the GSA, it’s part of an overall effort to appeal to young professionals into the agency. Just last week, it announced a national contract with multiple coworking spaces — WeWork, EXPANSIVE, The Yard, Deskpass and LiquidSpace to be specific — in part to appeal to younger staffers interested in remote work.
The increased flexibility, WeWork Head of Federal Sales Daniel Matthews told Technical.ly at the time, was meant to help the government compete with private sector resources and attract new talent, as well.
“When you think about recruiting and retention for the federal government, that is an important issue for them because they have an aging workforce,” Matthews said. “It’s been something that has been a well known, [publicized] high risk for the government … having the ability to recruit and retain personnel in a variety of ways, a variety of locations is really important to the government.”
Zvenyach agreed, noting that the Digital Corps program offers an alternative recruitment method. Hopefully, he said, following the two-year fellowship, participants will be ready and interested in a career within the federal government.
“Recruiting for technical talents is much, much harder and much more competitive than it’s ever been,” Zvenyach said. “We have to be thinking about how we can be competitive in ways that are different from just going to the traditional paths for recruiting.”