The World as It Will Be: Workforce Development Within and Beyond MITRE
Author: Amanda Andrei
How do we prepare for the inevitable change in the world today? How do we take into account not just the way the world is now – but the way it looks in the future?
When it comes to workforce development, we know that companies need to proactively think about what skills they will need from future and current employees. We know that supervisor support is critical for employee training and development. And we know that people and technological innovation will have to find the balance between automation and imagination to complete the jobs of today and of tomorrow.
As MITRE’s center for education, training, and development, the MITRE Institute has long developed the skills of staff through a variety of learning opportunities, ranging from offering short videos about new technical concepts to managing the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program, helping staff complete higher degrees. More recently, with the launch of the Generation AI Nexus (Gen AI) initiative, MITRE is contributing to the development of the nation’s future workforce.
Development Inside MITRE
Introduction to Blockchain Technology. Guiding Enterprise Transformation. Machine Learning: Beyond the Buzz.
These classes are a sample of the courses taught at the MITRE Institute, spanning a variety of introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels across technical and business/management fields. Classes are mainly taught in Bedford and McLean, with some courses at MITRE sites and many offered virtually. Decisions on which classes to include in the curricula comes from two avenues: leadership perspective and grassroots needs.
“We have a requirements gathering process where we ask the centers to identify major technical training initiatives,” explains Lara Van Nostrand, group leader of technical programs for the MITRE Institute. “We share the ones we’ve done in the past and ask leadership to identify which of those should have a continued focus as well as new strategic areas of focus. They also provide both general and specific course needs.”
Input from centers have led to the Learning Paths, curated sequences of related courses offering substantial depth on topics in strategic areas where MITRE has skills gaps. Previous Learning Paths have included topics such as Android Development and Malware Analysis, while current offerings include topics such as Cyber Effects and AI Adoption: Opportunities and Challenges
Individuals often approach the MITRE Institute with a course idea, especially after working on a project and noticing a need for more people to have a certain skill – maybe a programming language, specific software, or technical concept. After reviewing the course idea and justification, the MITRE Institute decides on which courses may be viable and then works with the instructors to internally publicize the course and ensure a smooth instructing and learning experience the day of the class. Leadership constantly keeps up to date on the newest technical trends, and MITRE employees can submit course proposals any time during the year.
Development Outside MITRE
Developing the workforce outside of MITRE typically depends on demand for training from sponsors. Sponsors have the opportunity to attend courses in-person on a space-available basis. MITRE instructors are also available to teach courses to a sponsor audience. This kind of training allows for more in-depth, sponsor-related applications and benefits current staff.
With Gen AI, outreach extends to the future workforce—such as high school and college students—who can gain technical skills and concepts for their future employers, whether or not they end up working for MITRE. Recent events such as the November 2018 “Catch the Phish” cybersecurity challenge allow students to get guidance from mentors and hands-on experience with data analytics through use of the Symphony platform. Other plans in the works include more online and virtual capabilities—either as challenges, hackathons, or lesson plans across subjects—that universities and schools can access.
“The MITRE Institute’s involvement with Gen AI has been finding the right support, training, and resources that would help participants during these challenges,” shares Joe Garner, lead technical training and development specialist at the MITRE Institute. “That’s been extended as an outreach to academia, and eventually researchers and professors can build AI lesson plans for undergraduates.” Ideally, Gen AI, using the Symphony platform early on will teach students of all backgrounds—not just STEM—about how to analyze and visualize big data more effectively.
Furthermore, it is critical for companies to identify and understand the workforce of the future. “How do you talk about careers in a gig-based economy?” Garner asks. “Ideally, everything should map to what workers need to be successful on the job.” In an age of digital nomads, roving offices, and individuals who want to break out of traditional work schedules and structures, how can an educated workforce be cultivated and well-prepared for the world as it will be?
It’s About the People
After each MITRE Institute class, students receive a survey asking them to evaluate the event and asking how the students will apply their new knowledge on the job. After enough classes, certain topics may also acquire their own community of practice, providing grassroots support for users of a specific tool or technique. Ultimately, it comes down to helping staff apply what they learn on the job.
“It goes back to people,” shares Van Nostrand. “People have the work they need to do, so it’s about identifying what they need to do their jobs and helping them, giving them opportunities to develop those skills, by providing resources for them in the form of classes, job aids, or guidance, and then opportunities to practice.”
No matter what new technical innovations occur, what matters in workforce development is that individuals feel satisfied, fulfilled, and supported in their jobs. And Garner notes that in the design or assessment of training and development, it is crucial to take into account a learner’s motivation. “What gets you up in the morning? Why do you like spending time with certain friends? Where do you see yourself in a year?” Garner asks. “Understanding motivation part is key to explaining why we do the things we do.”
These questions are pertinent to every part of an individual’s work life—whether they are a senior in high school prepping for the professional world, a new staff member just entering the workforce, a mid-career professional balancing family obligations, or a seasoned consultant looking at retirement. In a society of continuing change, inevitable change—what are our motivations to keep working and learning?
Amanda Andrei is a computational social scientist in the Department of Cognitive Sciences and Artificial Intelligence. She specializes in social media analysis, designing innovative spaces, and writing articles on cool subjects.
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