WHY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NEEDS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TRAINING RIGHT NOW

November 2, 2023 | Hot Trends & Stats | 7 min read

President Biden announced Monday, October 30, an Executive Order that underscores the need for further training on artificial intelligence (AI).

In an effort to position the United States as a leader in the safe and effective use of AI, the Executive Order seeks to harness the potential of artificial intelligence while mitigating risks by establishing standards for AI security, requiring privacy protection, promoting civil rights, as well as worker and consumer protections, and fostering innovation.

Importantly, the Executive Order underscores the necessity for responsible government use of AI and the need to modernize federal AI infrastructure – a topic that has been top-of-mind since the sudden and sustained popularity, and now ubiquity, of artificial intelligence.

Here’s what the Executive Order said about government responsibility:

To ensure the responsible government deployment of AI and modernize federal AI infrastructure, the President directs the following actions:

  • Issue guidance for agencies’ use of AI, including clear standards to protect rights and safety, improve AI procurement, and strengthen AI deployment.  
  • Help agencies acquire specified AI products and services faster, more cheaply, and more effectively through more rapid and efficient contracting.
  • Accelerate the rapid hiring of AI professionals as part of a government-wide AI talent surge led by the Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Digital Service, U.S. Digital Corps, and Presidential Innovation Fellowship. Agencies will provide AI training for employees at all levels in relevant fields.

Finally, the Executive Order emphasizes the importance of not only promoting transparency in the development of AI applications, but also putting protections in place so individuals can use the technology effectively and ethically.

Here are five things to consider before onboarding GenAI in your organization.

A CRITICAL SKILLS GAP IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE DEMANDS ACTION

Findings from Skillsoft’s annual IT Skills and Salary Report show hiring professionals with artificial intelligence skills is more difficult than any other area of tech. Further, skills gaps in this discipline are among the most acute.

AI requires a diverse range of skills and expertise. For instance, developing an AI system requires knowledge of computer programming, data science, machine learning, and statistics, among other things. It can be a challenge to find professionals who possess all these skills. At the same time, new developments and innovations in AI are happening at a rapid pace, which means that AI professionals need to keep up with the latest trends and technologies in the field.

Did you know that Skillsoft offers courses on ChatGPT that can help your team learn the abilities and limitations of AI?

Another challenge contributing to the skills gap is the scarcity of AI training programs and courses. While many universities and online platforms offer AI courses, the demand for these programs is far outstripping the supply. And many organizations are hesitant to invest in training their employees in AI – because they don’t have an AI policy in place or are finding it difficult to adapt to the rapid changes.

And according to a new report presented by FEDSCOOP, federal employees may be left in limbo:

  • A majority (84%) of federal government decision-makers surveyed indicated that their agency leadership considers “understanding the impact of generative AI” as a critical or important priority for agency operations.
  • Yet, 49% cited “lack of employee training to use generative AI responsibly” as a top risk within their agency.
  • Despite that, 71% of survey respondents believe that the potential advantages of employing generative AI in their agency’s operations outweigh the perceived risks.

And it’s true – IT teams are increasingly using GenAI to make their lives easier. So, the question becomes: How do we help our federal workforce realize the benefits of generative AI with training?

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FEDERAL EMPLOYEES NEED CLEAR GUIDELINES AND TRAINING AROUND AI

Two of three respondents to the FEDSCOOP survey say their agency has issued preliminary guidance on AI use. And that’s in line with what the Skillsoft team has seen across industries. If you have not provided AI training to your employees, you are lagging.

But it can be difficult to get access to the resources you need. During a recent panel on “demystifying AI,” Anil Chaudry, associate administrator in the Department of Transportation’s Office of Planning and Analytics, mentioned that he spends “less time working on a $200 million contract” than trying to get approvals for his staffers to take “a $1,500 training course.”

The good news is that many federal agencies already have access to Skillsoft courses today. All it would take is setting up the appropriate guidelines to create an enriching and custom curriculum. In fact, you probably have more experience setting up an AI training program than you think.

A good rule of thumb is to follow the same risk assessment process that you’ve likely instated as part of your current compliance training program. Here’s one way you can start:

Define your objectives. What are you trying to achieve with your agency’s AI training? This could include improving employees’ skills, creating specific guidelines for safe and effective use at work, or something else.

Identify key stakeholders. Who needs to be involved in this process?

Identify the risks your organization faces. With respect to AI, risks might include data privacy and security, bias and fairness, legal and regulatory compliance, scalability, or ethical concerns.

Assess and prioritize these risks. Consider the likelihood and severity of each risk, including which has the most impact on your employees and your agency. For example, are you focused on protecting critical information? Avoiding bias and hallucination? Limiting employee usage?

Establish your risk tolerance. Some risks may be acceptable to you, while others may not. Risk tolerance varies by agency, but it plays a significant role in decision-making and resource allocation.

Develop an action plan. Outline the steps your organization needs to take to address the risks that are most important to you. Assign responsibilities and deadlines for risk mitigation.

Communication and training. Ensure that all relevant stakeholders are aware of the risks and the measures you have put in place to address them.

Continuous improvement. After you’ve created your own governance structure around AI based on your agency’s priorities, you can analyze and improve your guidelines based on any emerging guidance.

HOW TO CLOSE THE AI SKILLS GAP IN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT

Bottom line? There are currently more than 700 AI use cases across federal agencies, according to a database maintained by AI.gov. And while the data does not provide a complete picture, it is heartening that governmental organizations are diving into artificial intelligence.

Again according to the “Gauging the Impact of Generative AI on Government” report:

  • More than half of all respondents (51%) said their agency is planning to assess the potential positive or negative impact within the next 12 months.
  • When asked where they see generative presenting the greatest opportunities for employees, 65% of all respondents said it was the ability to give employees added technical support, followed by the ability to reduce the time required to complete work processes (64%).

Skillsoft provides a wide range of online training courses and journeys that cover different aspects of AI, such as machine learning, natural language processing, and robotics. And as a company, we serve more than 100 federal agencies and all branches of the military. So, chances are, your organization might be able to leverage our AI training materials today to support your reskilling and upskilling efforts.

Skillsoft’s library can be tailored to meet the specific needs of federal government employees and can be delivered via our learning platform, Percipio, which provides a flexible and accessible way for employees to learn at their own pace.

Additionally, we offer Instructor-Led Training (ILT) courses, wherein our subject matter experts deliver authorized and industry-leading content through multiple delivery formats — classroom, virtual classroom, and on-demand. Our experience and expertise enable us to develop truly effective learning paths that boost skill profiles while improving performance.

Furthermore, we can work with federal government agencies to develop custom training programs that are aligned with their specific goals and objectives related to AI. This could include creating targeted training for specific job roles or departments, as well as providing ongoing support and resources to ensure that employees are able to apply their newly acquired skills and knowledge to their work.

And finally, Skillsoft can offer training on ethical use of GenAI so that federal agencies stay in compliance with existing regulations. Our expertise in AI training and education can be a valuable asset to the federal government as it seeks to upskill its workforce and stay ahead of technological advancements in this field.