The shortage of tech talent continues to draw news headlines and calls for increased innovation and more resources. One often cited element is the need to not just find professionals from within the existing workforce, but to take proactive steps to grow talent from the ground up – with some STEM outreach programs starting as early as kindergarten.

The focus on growing tech talent is key to a partnership between government cloud, managed services, and cyber security provider 1901 Group and Radford University. 1901 Group is a part of an industry consortium with Radford University’s Applied Research Center. The partnership allows tech students from Radford University to get a taste of government careers first-hand.

“Working with students and their colleges and universities is really an essential part of the 1901 Group vision,” said Brendan Walsh, Senior Vice President, Partner Relations at 1901 Group. Sonu Singh, CEO of 1901 Group has promoted three elements from the beginning : customer satisfaction, investing in employee development, and strengthening our community, said Walsh.

“We believe, and we’ve believed for a long time, that we’ve got to grow the talent,” said Walsh. “You can’t just go out and find the talent. You can’t take the talent efficiently enough from competitors.”

Students aren’t just getting practical experience in technologies like ServiceNow, they’re also getting critical soft skills, and learning what it takes to succeed in a government career.

“We see it as our true pipeline for the future,” said Dana Pittman, Senior Vice President, Talent Strategy & Human Resources for 1901 Group. “It’s going to allow us to identify opportunities for them, and hopefully opportunities for ourselves to further our commitment with customers that we’re supporting, providing them with on the job-trained and hopefully cleared resources that will hit the ground running.”

With a backlog of more than 500,000 pending investigations and one-to-two year clearance processing times for initial clearances, the ability to initiate the security clearance process early, and get students adapted to the nuance of federal government careers, can be very useful.

“Being able to bring in folks earlier, put them into a work environment, initiate those clearances and the clearance process – it gives us time, gives the student time, and obviously gives the investigators time,” said Walsh. “That really helps us in the long run. It really is a win-win for everybody helping the industry on a larger scale.”

Pittman noted students who are put through the program aren’t just more ready for careers with an employer like 1901 Group, but they’re more acclimated to federal government careers and what it takes to support the federal IT mission. They have hands-on-keys experience with technologies being used on site, and get to practice the critical thinking skills needed to interface with customers and clients. Students are then more competitive hires, who have learned to troubleshoot problems and present solutions.

“I think it really is back to that win-win-win for the student, for the government, for the customers, for industry,” said Walsh. “Talent is talent, and talent has always had options when it comes to career paths. Being able to really promote career paths in information technology really benefits the industry as a whole, and of course the government customers who are consuming this next group of talent.”

1901 Group commits to interviewing the students and considering them for open positions, but it also assists with resume writing, mock interviews, and job training to prepare them for another employer, if they choose an outside position. 1901 Group also reaches out to partner organizations to try to identify opportunities if they don’t have one that’s a good fit. Because in the end, the program isn’t just about filling an immediate opening, but growing the skills base of an entire industry.

“The positive experiences of these interns is not just with 1901 Group or the firm providing the internship,” said Walsh. “But it’s also generally a positive experience supporting a public sector, federal government mission. I think that aspect of being able to have hands on productivity supporting a federal agency mission at a young age is a really positive thing for everybody.”

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer