NSF Wants to Build an App that Matches Feds to Tech Jobs

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And some of those jobs might not exist yet.

The National Science Foundation is looking to build an app that helps federal employees grow their skills and navigate the job market in the digital age.

The Career Compass Challenge, which NSF launched Friday, aims to create a tool that provides custom career advice based on people’s current skills and interests. The app could suggest potential new jobs and build a roadmap for how people can achieve them through training courses, degree programs and other professional development opportunities.

But unlike standard career assessments, the tech would help people prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist, according to NSF Chief Information Officer Dorothy Aronson.

Emerging technologies will significantly chance on the types of employees and skills the government needs in the years ahead, but it’s difficult to know how exactly those changes play out, Aronson told Nextgov. As some positions become obsolete and others grow increasingly reliant on tech, federal employees and the workforce at large will need to constantly adapt, she said.

She sees the competition as a way to get agencies thinking about how to approach that future.

“It’s our fear of that change that’s really holding us back,” Aronson said in a conversation with Nextgov. “If we … understand and embrace that [change], then I think that we will build a better future for ourselves.”

Aronson said the tool would likely use artificial intelligence to both predict how the job market will change in the years ahead and match individuals to those future jobs based on resumes, personality tests or other data. The program will also promote opportunities for continuous reskilling to help people adapt to the constantly changing tech landscape.

While apps developed through the competition will specifically focus on how NSF employees can map their futures, they could ultimately be adapted for government and private sector employees more broadly, Aronson said.

The competition is divided into two parts: teams in the first round will propose ideas to improve workforce reskilling programs and increase job mobility within government, and participants in the second will prototype an app employees could use to chart their career paths.

Teams participating in the first part of the challenge are required to submit proposals by Dec. 31, and NSF will announce five winners on Feb. 22. Proposals for the second round are due June 28, and a single winner will be announced Aug. 16.