The Army has started teaching 100 civilian employees new IT skills as part of a training program designed to retrain the service’s civilian personnel, the service’s top IT official said July 14.

The effort, called Quantum Leap, is focused on reskilling 1,000 of the the 15,000-person Army civilian workforce personnel by 2023, said Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the chief information officer/G-6 of the Army. The initiative looks to solve a broader challenge that faces the Defense Department and federal government to ensure employees have the proper skills to work with emerging technology such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

“How do we transition them from a focus on certifications to a focus on skills? That’s a big task,” Crawford said at the AFCEA Army Signal Conference.

Crawford said Quantum Leap will not solve the Army’s workforce challenges, but acknowledged the Army’s traditional approach will not reduce talent shortages at the speed and scale necessary.

In a mid-June call with reporters, Crawford said that the program would focus on retooling employees in cloud engineering, data engineering, data architecture and software developers.

Crawford, in his final weeks in the job, recently announced the realignment of the Army CIO/G-6 shop in which the CIO and G-6 will be two separate roles. Crawford said in June that the Quantum Leap initiative was a “key aspect” of the new leadership structure.

“This an opportunity to assess the future needs and while we’re in the process of realignment, take advantage of the opportunity to ... recode some of the skills and then take on, in the near term, upskilling and reskilling the workforce to those data and cloud-centric and analytics-centric skillsets that we’re going to need in the future,” Crawford said in June, adding that no one will be losing their jobs as the Army seeks to close gaps in their IT workforce.

Crawford also stressed that software development was one of the most important areas the Army needs to improve. In an effort to better software development, Army Futures Command announced July 14 that it was setting up a software factory in Austin, Texas, where the command is based, to improve soldier’s software development abilities.

Maj. Vito Errico, special assistant to the commanding general of Futures Command, is the new leader of the software factory. Asked what keeps him up at night on a webinar July 14, Errico said he worried about that Army’s ability to reform its human capital system to meet its digital needs. But a significant problem however for the private sector, military services and federal government is that they are all competing for the same talent.

“Competition for talent is a real thing and is here to say,” Crawford said. “If we don’t take some nontraditional actions to solve that problem, it’s going to grow on us.”

The Army, Crawford said, needs people “whether their hair is blue, green or red, and regardless of why, that group of people that we’re competing for - they’re patriots.”

The Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force also announced July 14 that it was starting a data science and data engineering master’s program Aug. 31 with Carnegie Mellon University. The inaugural class includes 20 officers and five civilians.

“We must recruit and mentor exceptional talent who will lead the way in using AI to harness data, making our warfighting and business systems faster, more effective and less expensive,” said Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the AI task force.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the CIO position as a three-star general.

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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