Enabling Generative AI Literacy: Skills Training for the Public Sector

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn how to implement a secure and effective GenAI training program for your organization and empower your employees to leverage AI for enhanced productivity and citizen services.

Organizations across many industry sectors, from tech to healthcare to finance, are using generative AI (GenAI) to drive efficiency and foster innovation. The urgency for GenAI literacy extends to the public sector, as potential productivity improvements from GenAI could be worth $1.75 trillion per year globally across all levels of government. Deloitte similarly found that automation could save 96.7 million federal hours annually by sifting through millions of documents to find relevant content in a matter of seconds. This enables workers to provide constituents with faster, more personalized services. 

Public sector learning leaders must prioritize equipping employees with the skills to leverage GenAI effectively. From administrative assistants to policy analysts, every role stands to benefit from learning how to apply GenAI to everyday tasks. 

“The AI revolution is not on the horizon. It’s already here,” shares Dr. Mark Lane, Strategy & Innovation Leader at Cisco. “Its impact will be as profound as the Industrial Revolution or Digital Revolution. Your organization must embrace this transformation or risk being left behind. The choice is clear—adapt or become irrelevant. The time to act is now.”

Let’s dig into what to know as you build a GenAI training program for your public sector organization.

5 ways to facilitate GenAI literacy while keeping your agency secure

1. Map skills to use cases

Start by identifying use cases that make sense for your organization and could most benefit from GenAI, like fraud detection, cybersecurity, administration, and constituent services. From there, identify the skills needed to execute on these use cases.

“AI literacy and fundamentals are of immediate urgency. As a leader, you must address that while providing familiarity with GenAI tools and their use cases.”

Dr. Mark Lane, Strategy & Innovation Leader, Cisco

Based on Coursera skills data and an expert review by Coursera founder Andrew Ng, here are GenAI skills that public sector employees should generally prioritize developing:

  • Prompt Engineering

  • GenAI Project Life Cycle

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP)

  • Deep Learning

  • Transformer Networks

  • Vision Transformers

  • Pre-Training and Fine-Tuning

  • Diffusion Models

  • Reinforcement Learning

  • AI Strategy

  • Responsible AI

Learn how to harness the power of AI to transform government training.

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2. Establish clear GenAI principles and guardrails

As the number of AI tools and applications grows, strong governance is non-negotiable. Begin by establishing a robust framework that prioritizes risk management and data security. This demands a collaborative approach, bringing together experts from across your organization—Security, Compliance, Legal, IT, Data Science, and other relevant departments—to define clear guidelines for responsible GenAI use. 

As Dr. Mark Lane advises, "Get all your stakeholders together, because your training program will lack critical insights if you don’t.” 

This collaborative approach ensures everyone understands the "why" behind the "what" of GenAI and paves the way for a smoother, more secure adoption process.

3.  Empower employees to learn and apply GenAI

Integrate GenAI training seamlessly into existing workflows, demonstrating its immediate relevance to daily tasks. For example, instead of manually searching through multiple databases, a citizen services representative could use a GenAI-powered chatbot to instantly access and deliver accurate information tailored to a citizen's specific question. 

Showcase how these skills translate into tangible benefits for your workforce: increased efficiency, faster access to critical insights, and more time to focus on high-impact work. By investing in your employees’ GenAI fluency, your agency also invests in enhanced public trust. When citizens experience more efficient, effective service delivery, it strengthens trust and confidence in government institutions.

4. Embrace strategic partnerships with the private sector

Proactively address security concerns by building robust protocols into your GenAI implementation. Recognize that sometimes, partnering with private sector experts specializing in AI security, like Cisco, can provide an extra layer of protection, especially if your agency relies on existing GenAI tools with inherent limitations. 

This includes exploring initiatives like the AI-Enabled ICT Workforce Consortium, which unites public and private sectors to understand the impact of AI on job roles and develop accessible training pathways to equip workers with in-demand skills.

These collaborations mitigate organizational risk, strengthen security posture, and offer access to specialized expertise to support your GenAI initiatives.

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5. Motivate continuous learning with recognition and rewards

A culture of continuous learning is essential in the age of GenAI. Implement a structured reward system that recognizes and incentivizes employee participation in GenAI training. Leverage platforms like Coursera, where learners can earn badges and shareable certificates that showcase their achievements and expertise. Additionally, consider providing employees with dedicated “study hours” during select workdays, so everyone can take time to learn new skills. These initiatives demonstrate your organization’s commitment to providing employees with professional development resources and act as powerful motivators to help them build new GenAI skills.

Start upskilling today

GenAI discourse often recommends taking an iterative approach to organizational adoption. Public sector agencies shouldn’t wait. GenAI’s rapid evolution demands urgent action from public sector leaders as they upskill the organization now, not later. 

“Are you seeking to build AI literacy? Do it now, and do not wait. GenAI is way bigger than people think, and it’s not a fad. It's ramping up so rapidly that if you don't do something about it now, you’ll look back and wonder how you missed it,” reiterates Dr. Mark Lane.

Learn more about Generative AI Academy

Coursera’s GenAI Academy equips employees with the skills they need to thrive in an AI-driven workplace. It offers a unique blend of foundational literacy and executive education programs from top research universities and companies at the forefront of AI, including Microsoft, Stanford Online, Vanderbilt University, DeepLearning.AI, Fractal Analytics, Google Cloud, and AWS.

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

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