On Monday the Biden administration announced a new program, called the U.S. Digital Corps, designed to attract young tech talent to roles in the government.
The Corps offers early-career technologies a chance to get engaged in government via a two-year fellowship focused on major Biden administration priorities, including coronavirus response, economic recovery, cybersecurity, and streamlining government services.
The program will begin by recruiting 30 people with skill sets in software engineering, data science, design, cybersecurity, and other critical technology fields this fall. It’ll place them in one of five agencies—the General Services Administration (GSA), Veterans Affairs, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—where they’ll start work in 2022.
Only 3% of the government’s workforce is under 30 years old, says the GSA, which will handle the recruiting. And only a quarter of the current workforce are women. The GSA says it’ll hire a diversity of people for the Corps to help even out those ratios. The program will recruit from “leading undergraduate programs,” as well as from “alternative training pathways” such as apprenticeships, bootcamps, and certificate programs.
The government faces a daunting challenge in attracting more young technologists to public service. It must compete with private technology companies, which are often able to offer larger salaries and more attractive work environments. On the other hand, many young people want to work on national problems such as climate change and cybersecurity.
The program may be the Biden version of the U.S. Digital Service (USDS), which President Obama started during his second term. The USDS invited tech workers from companies like Google and Facebook to come to Washington and spend some time helping the government apply new technology to its processes. Many did. The USDS grew slightly smaller but survived the Trump years.
The U.S. Digital Corps is a collaboration between GSA, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. It’s the “first and only government-wide, technology-specific recruitment program for early-career Americans,” says the GSA in a press release.