Georgia IT agency upskills staff with technical college partnership

Georgia Chief Information Officer Shawnzia Thomas told StateScoop at a technology conference on Tuesday that the state’s relationship with a local technical college system has helped upskill her current staff and prepare the next generation of IT professionals.

The partnership first began as a means to upskill state IT staff on cloud technologies, but now Thomas said she sees potential for that same model to be used to bolster her current staff on skills related to cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, while also paving the way for college graduates to enter the public sector.

“You’ve got to train what you have. We can’t compete with the private sector on resources,” Thomas said at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference in National Harbor, Maryland. “We’re putting resources into our staff, and they love that. So the more you invest in them, the more they’re going to give you back. They’ve got the curriculum, they’ve got the students, we’ve got the jobs. So let’s partner and make this happen for Georgia.”

Georgia ran an AI summit last December in part to address staff fears that the embrace of generative AI would eliminate their jobs. The event also provided a forum for government and the public to discuss how AI could be used to enhance their careers.

“The attitude is once they got over the fear of AI taking their jobs, the attitude now is excitement,” Thomas said. “And that’s a real problem for us. We’ve got to be fast and slow at the same time. Fast enough not to be behind, but slow enough not to make critical security issues and mistakes.”

Thomas said the summit, which was attended by nearly 300 people, sparked “excitement” around the AI and forged ongoing conversations about implementing AI.

“[I’ve asked] my staff to bring me use cases that will help your job be more efficient,” Thomas said. “So they’re doing that, so the sentiment across my agency and the other agencies — they’re excited about it.”