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FDA’s IT Strategy Focuses on Developing Tech Talent

The roadmap outlines recruiting and upskilling priorities among six strategic goals.

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The Food and Drug Administration outlined a plan for cultivating technology talent and leadership over the next four years as part of its newest IT roadmap presented during FDA’s Digital Transformation Symposium Tuesday.

“It’s intended to serve as our ‘North Star’ to really provide a lot of direction and focus for us over the next couple of years,” Executive Officer of FDA’s Office of Digital Transformation Jessica Berrellez told GovCIO Media & Research at the event. “One of the key goals that I’m personally really excited about is focused on cultivating talent and leadership.”

This talent and leadership focus is one of six goals outlined in the strategy, but one that is a critical thread that connects them all, according to Berrellez.

“It isn’t sufficient to focus on technology or data or cybersecurity modernization, we also really need to invest in our talent,” Berrellez said.

The other goals include:

  • Enhancing collaboration.
  • Strengthen infrastructure.
  • Modernizing services.
  • Sharing data.
  • Adopting AI and innovations.

The strategy comes amid several earlier action plans released since 2019 that outline digital transformation strategies helping FDA allocate technology, talent and resources for optimized modernization efforts.

Last year, Berrellez’s office launched Project Elixir focused on creating hiring and compensation strategies as part of its Leadership Modernization Action Plan.

“We are actively working to convert our current workforce, starting with our technology leaders to this special hiring and pay authority called Title 21,” Berrellez said.

The agency also has numerous efforts aimed at training the workforce and helping to leverage emerging technology.

Project Uptech is one program that prioritizes investing in the agency’s technology workforce through ongoing education and training opportunities. The FDA has also crafted 90 learning paths and curricula for 20 technical roles through the FDA Tech Academy. The initiative is dedicated to closing knowledge gaps and ensuring the workforce remains at the forefront of emerging technology.

“We’re also expanding our technology learning and development portfolio so we’re now going to be offering IT certifications to our staff and creating a lot of learning events,” Berrellez said. “In the next couple of months, we’re going to be launching a new machine-learning curriculum to increase our AI talent pool and also AI awareness.”

The agency also is preparing for the future of work amid hybrid work environments and recruiting the next generation. Berrellez emphasized the importance of fostering a diverse workforce in the evolving landscape.

“This is a wonderful career path, not just for people who are technologists, but for people, with other types of backgrounds. We really need a diversity of perspectives when it comes to not just lived experience, but also disciplinary and academic backgrounds,” Berrellez said.

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