NDIA Defense Workforce Project Discussed the Future of Work


Bryce Kelly, Pomona College - NDIA Strategy & Policy Intern


On 23 July 23, members of NDIA’s Defense Workforce Project (DWP) met for a cross-brief between working groups to present their progress in their work to determine the steps necessary for government, industry, and academia to promote the development and sustainment of a robust, ready, and cleared defense workforce for 2040. NDIA’s President and CEO retired GeneralHawk Carlisle oversaw what was the first full meeting of the consortium of leaders and experts from the defense industry, the Department of Defense and other relevant organizations. It will be the only time the members will exhibit the work of their individual groups ahead of the 2021 Defense Workforce Summit, to be hosted this October in the DC area. Working group presentations on their recommendations for how government, industry, and academia can best prepare America’s defense workforce and will feature keynote addresses along with networking opportunities.

Following opening remarks, NDIA’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and Policy, Wesley Hallman, announced NDIA’s partnership with Representatives Jason Crow (D-CO) and Troy Balderson (R-OH) to create the Defense Workforce, Innovation, and Industry Caucus (DWIIC). The caucus will serve as an open line of communication to and between lawmakers on issues such as defense workforce, supply chain resiliency, R&D, onshoring, cybersecurity, and  other challenges concerning the defense industrial base (DIB). NDIA is working to grow membership within the caucus and develop programming  to inform members and staff on DIB issues to include the workforce challenges the industry is facing.

The first team to present was the STEM Education Pathways working group, led by Dr. Jean VanderGheynst, Dean of the College of Engineering at University of Massachusetts  Dartmouth. Dr. VanderGheynst identified the group’s mission to address the scale, quality, and diversity of K-14 STEM education in the United States. As such, the panel announced that it had divided into two working groups, one for K-12 and another for the first two years of college. Aside from determining the scale and problem statement of the working group, Dr. VanderGheynst said the team had already partially found and categorized many of the obstacles, data, and promising programs related to increasing the numbers and diversity of students prepared for a career in STEM.

Afterwards, the Skilled Careers Working Group, led by Tom Vecchiolla, discussed their work on trades and skilled workforce in the United States. Across the DIB, manufacturers are facing a significant challenge in finding skilled and representative labor, and many positions are left unfilled. Vecchiolla noted that the team was finding very few substantive national approaches to this problem, and that the most effective programs were local and based on relationships built by regional recruiters and supported by state or local government resources. While Vecchiolla highlighted federal enthusiasm to promote vocational training, he cautioned that counselors, coaches, parents, teachers need to be informed that the skilled workforce is a valid path, either as a steppingstone to something else or for life.

The Talent Pools Working Group under Qinetiq’s Director of Human Resources Myrna Ganley had been formed later than the other groups, but still had plenty to talk about. The team is considering topics such as how inclusion factors into talent acquisition, the hybrid work environment, and nontraditional backgrounds in key fields, among others. Future meetings of the group will decide the priority of the group and determine a plan of attack.

Finally, Scott Drach, Vice President of Human Resources for Defense, Space & Security at Boeing, represented the Futures Working Group. Focusing on what skills will be in demand in the future and how they will apply to jobs that don’t currently exist, Drach described how the team was considering the impact of artificial intelligence machine learning, and other advanced technologies on the workforce. On top of an already difficult task, Drach pledged the team would also come up with recommendations for learning and development to address the coming changes.

The cross-brief concluded with congratulations on the progress made so far and enthusiasm for the coming summit. General Hawk Carlisle, NDIA’s president and CEO, thanked everyone for volunteering their time for the project and celebrated the assistance and recommendations the teams were giving each other throughout the meeting. For questions about a particular working group or the Defense Workforce Project or the Summit, please contact Chris Sax at csax@ndia.org.

Topics: Industrial Base

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