As Air Force’s Digital U grows its ranks, it looks to refine course work

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Braeden Pruett, 355th Communications Squadron cyber security technician, updates information assurance officer training slides at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Sept. 26, 2018. Cyber security technicians must ensure the protection of installation operational and communications security while also training personnel on securing sensitive information. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Frankie D. Moore)

The Air Force‘s push to upskill its workforce with new online courses now has 3,000 airmen working to sharpen their digital skills, including a two-star general.

With thousands of airmen already enrolled in the Digital University program, officials say they are well on their way to expanding and refining the program with more learners and help from industry. The Air Force is in the market for advice from industry on how best to select the skillsets needed in the program’s 11 new pathways, Lt. Col. Paul Cooper, CEO of Air Force’s Office of Business and Enterprise Systems Product Innovation (BESPIN), said Thursday.

Operated by the BESPIN office, Digital University — or Digital U, as many in the Air Force call it — is a key part of the department’s Digital Air Force strategy to expand the digital acumen of the entire force. The 11 pathways are groupings of courses that focus on specific job qualifications, like cloud engineering or user experience design.

The Air Force plans to be “constantly updating digital training” to meet its needs, Cooper said.

Currently, the program is supported by courses from Pluralsight, Udemy and Udacity. In posts on its LinkedIn page, BESPIN said it is searching for subject matter experts to best curate the course work available for each pathway.

The 3,000 airmen currently using the platform have thousands of courses to choose from designed around the 11 pathways. The pathways will likely expand as the Air Force collects industry feedback and grows the audience it is targeting. The plan is to start with sharpening the Air Force’s cyber and technical workforce, then grow outward to all parts of the force to imbue digital literacy across the department.

The new Space Force will also be using Digital U to train all of its new members in the coming months. Much of the new service’s work will be dedicated to satellites and other space-based systems, making it a highly technical branch that leaders said needs to have “digitally fluent” members.

Cooper encouraged all airmen to check out the courses and begin the process of gaining new skills or sharpening old ones.

“Sign up, go out there and be a continuous learner,” he said.