The Trump administration is looking to farm desperately needed cybersecurity professionals from within the existing federal workforce by launching a Cyber Reskilling Academy that gives accepted employees a crash course in cyber skills, the Office of Management and Budget announced Nov. 30.

“In the federal government, like many organizations in the private sector, we have a critical shortage of qualified cybersecurity personnel, and its incumbent on us to develop those capabilities,” said federal chief information officer Suzette Kent in a press call on the new academy.

“This is a pilot program, it’s designed to reskill individuals in the federal workforce with hands-on cybersecurity training to transition into cybersecurity jobs.”

The first cohort of the academy will be made up of about 25 feds who do not already occupy cyber or IT positions.

“This inaugural class and first program is going to be made up of current federal employees who don’t work in the IT field, and it’s an opportunity to provide them with necessary training to actually qualify as cyber defense analysts,” said Kent.

“By making this available to our current federal employees, we can support career growth and retention for those who are already part of the mission.”

Applications open Nov. 30, 2018, and close Jan. 11, 2019. Interested employees must first discuss their desire to participate with their supervisor and gain their approval as part of the application.

Beginning Jan. 14, applicants will receive links to an online assessment of their critical thinking and problem solving skills, that does not require prior cyber knowledge.

Based on both the applications and the assessments, the program will score and select applicants, who will be notified starting Feb. 25.

Selected participants then start a three month training program March 11, which includes both online and in-person classes that culminate in cybersecurity certification exams that will make them ready to take on cyber analyst roles.

According to a senior administration official, though participants do not necessarily need to be in the Washington, D.C. area, they will have to be able to make it to the Department of Education building in the capital for the days of in-person training.

The program costs are covered by the CIO Council, but, according to the application website, potential applicants must make arrangements with their supervisors to make sure they can take the time off required for the program.

The training itself, as well as the assessment program, will be offered by a government contractor.

“We are working with a vendor partner, SANS, who is helping us deliver this,” said the administration official. “We looked at many vendors who could support us through this… but based on the results that they’ve achieved in other similar programs, we felt that this was a really good way to start.”

Once employees complete the training, they are not guaranteed new cyber positions at their agency, but will be offered training to apply for federal cyber positions and must commit to at least three more years of service in the federal government.

Retraining the federal workforce to meet the needs of a more modernized, digital government, has been a key priority for the Trump administration. And according to Kent, this will not be the only training program offered to feds.

“This is the first of many of the reskilling efforts that the administration is exploring,” said Kent. “In addition to this, we also plan to have a cyber reskilling pilot for federal employees including those who already have an IT background. We are offering an opportunity or opportunities in robotics process automation learning in our efforts associated with shifting low value to high value work. And we’re going to also focus on some particular areas for those already in IT and cyber to continue to build executive leadership skills.”

Should the programs offer a high success rate, Kent said that it may be expanded to drive a larger impact.

“We do know that a few small programs won’t be enough to solve the challenge of our overall skill, but that’s why we’re going to have many programs,” said Kent.

”We’re going to learn from each one, and even though we are starting with smaller numbers in each of these programs, the approach that we’re taking and the support across the councils and the executives at all of our agencies will let us understand the success rate, and then look to expand and industrialize those across the federal government.”

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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