Nexus Day Staff and Student Workforce Development Update

During the Nexus Day event, held July 10, 2022 in conjunction with the PEARC22 conference, we held an all-day workshop to address student workforce programs and staff onboarding and workforce development practices. Although we intended to spend much of the time addressing both the staff and student workforce issues together, we quickly determined that breakout sessions specific to staff or student development efforts would be more effective and provide an excellent forum to discuss common themes and exchange ideas.

There was a general recognition that common problems and challenges span the two efforts, and there is a desire to address them collectively through shared tools and methodologies and by developing a common framework. Specifically, there was an aspiration to develop a set of learning paths, starting as early as undergraduate RCD staff and continuing through senior-level RCD professionals, to identify existing gaps in training and development. However, it was also recognized that specifics would differ between staff and student development – even though many of the tools, documentation, and basic framework may be the same. Interesting outcomes included a shared desire to develop basic materials, such as  a five-minute video on “What is a Research Computing and Data Professional?”, as well as a collective agreement on the need for and value of project management skills and training for those working in research computing and data (RCD).

Read more below about how each of these efforts is evolving:

Student Workforce Development

The student workforce development breakout sessions at Nexus Day 2022 allowed participants from institutions looking to start a student workforce program to interact with those from institutions with established programs. After an opening discussion, session participants spent time brainstorming a set of information that would be valuable for groups looking to start a new student program. 

Based on this input and the subsequent discussions, three top priorities were identified: 

  • Obtaining information about successful student programs
  • Learning about resources for mentor development
  • Gathering ideas for establishing funding sustainability  

In the afternoon, workshop attendees tackled the first of these priorities by developing a specific set of questions to ask those with established student programs in order to yield useful information for those just starting a program. At the end of the workshop, we had the first draft of a survey of student programs – with special thanks to Scott Coughlin from Northwestern University for creating the document.

We left the workshop excited to move forward with the growth of the CaRCC Student Workforce Development interest group.

Staff Workforce Development

The staff workforce development breakout identified four areas that were discussed independently: mentoring; tools and documentation; training; and measuring value (KPI, ROI, value proposition). After the resulting discussions were compared with those from the Student workforce track, career advancement was identified as another important topic for both the staff and student development efforts. The combined topics were then ranked by the participants, generating the following top topics of interest: 

  • Tools and documentation 
  • Mentoring
  • Measuring value.

Participants in the RCD staff and student workforce workshop were in agreement that new resources are needed for RCD staff and student workforce development. However, it was also recognized that there are a number of good resources already available that should be curated and documented. Developing these resources is a main goal of the RCD Nexus portal and Nexus Day laid the groundwork to begin forming working groups to address these gaps. These resources can provide