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Paving the Way: Creating Tech Career Pathways in the Public Sector

September 21, 2022

At A Glance

Public sector organizations are rethinking ways to attract, upskill, and equitably advance talent for technology-focused careers across the country.

Cheneyere Williamson Associate Director
Practices & Centers

The world needs more information technology (IT) workers—an issue the public sector knows all too well. The onset of the pandemic left the public sector burdened by employment gaps for vital tech workers, struggling to hire and retain those capable of overseeing important government systems and technology updates required for (now) online essential services. Turns out, finding skilled IT workers who can support those applying for government benefits, attending court appointments, and making payments is easier said than done.

Earlier this spring, Jobs for the Future (JFF) launched the Public Sector Digital Jobs Innovation Project to address this gap. It announced two unique Request For Proposal opportunities to help public sector agencies prepare and skill residents for competitive and high-quality technology careers in their region: The Public Sector Planning Grant, funded by, and the Workforce Development Board Digital Skills Pilot Initiative, supported by New Profit, with funding from and IBM.

The response from public sector organizations was overwhelming. Many organizations applied eagerly, confirming their interests in strategizing, designing, and/or implementing technology-focused career pathways.

As a result, our grant awardees and JFF will work together and leverage these opportunities to develop an inclusive and comprehensive digital jobs strategy—one which specifically supports on-ramps to high-quality technology careers for underrepresented individuals in this sector. This includes women of all racial backgrounds, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx workers, and those from other racial backgrounds.

Announcing the Public Sector Digital Jobs Innovation Project Grantees

After a competitive application process, JFF is pleased to announce the following grant awardees:

Public Sector Planning Grant

Planning grant awardees will receive $50,000 to develop a strategy and timeline for creating localized career pathways that support entry into public sector digital skill jobs, especially for underrepresented job seekers in the technology sector.

Over the next several months, sites will validate a hypothesis, conduct a needs assessment, identify employer champions and opportunities for work-based learning, and map out training programs and short-term credentials that equip learners to enter and thrive in public sector technology careers.

Workforce Development Board Digital Skills Pilot Initiative

Selected workforce development boards will receive capacity funding to design and launch a pilot initiative to implement either the Google Career Certificates or the IBM SkillsBuild learning platform for a period of approximately 15 months.

Congratulations to all the selected organizations!

Building a Pipeline to Digital Jobs in the Public Sector

JFF has a history of leading innovative initiatives focused on building pathways to digital jobs through federal grants (e.g., TechHire, RITEI) and philanthropic initiatives supported by Google, Verizon, and Amazon.

Sara Lamback, senior director at JFF, said, “With the Public Sector Digital Jobs Innovation Initiative, JFF will build on this expertise to support a critical—but underexplored—segment of the digital jobs ecosystem. By enabling three communities to engage in deep planning, career pathways mapping, and an examination of current and potential work-based learning opportunities, this initiative will provide insights on effective strategies to build a more robust public sector digital workforce and approaches that can ensure that women, Black workers, Latinx workers, and other groups underrepresented in digital jobs have an opportunity to enter into and advance within these digital jobs.”

“ is thrilled to continue our longstanding support of JFF through a new $3 million grant which will support initiatives such as the Public Sector Digital Jobs Innovation Initiative,” said Hector Mujica, Head of Opportunity, “We look forward to seeing how this work will create innovative models to enable public sector workers to skill at scale and increase their economic mobility through programs like the Google Career Certificates.”

“New Profit is excited to partner with JFF to advance our vision for an economy where every worker has access to opportunities to learn, grow and build wealth,” said Abby Marquand, Partner at New Profit. “The Public Sector Digital Jobs Innovation Initiative demonstrates the power of co-designing workforce solutions attuned to real-time labor market needs. By bringing the public and private sectors together to create innovative solutions that connect workers to higher-wage jobs, this initiative will help address the systemic barriers to economic mobility while strengthening the public sector workforce.”

Why the Public Sector?

According to a 2020 report by McKinsey & Company, the public sector struggles to competitively recruit many roles of increasing importance—including full-stack developers, user experience (UX) designers, and artificial intelligence (AI) engineers. As of 2018, there were approximately 4.5 times as many civil servants in IT roles over age 60 than under age 30. These opportunities, coupled with the job security and long-term career advancement synonymous with civil service roles, make launching a technology career in the public sector ever more appealing.

The time is now to reconstruct the public sector as a more agile workforce, shifting toward training, sourcing, and hiring digital talent. Let’s ensure the creation of a more robust segment of the workforce that is both adequately staffed and expertly skilled for the future.

Get Involved

JFF is excited to share the progress of the Public Sector Digital Jobs Innovation Project and will publish insights and learnings as the work continues to develop in this area. Please connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to follow JFF’s work, or subscribe to our mailing list to find out about opportunities to learn, collaborate, and invest.

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