OPM takes FAST track to closing skills gaps

The Office of Personnel Management has tasked an interagency working group to identify governmentwide programmatic skills gaps and measure progress toward closing them.

“Because skills gaps within individual federal agencies — as well as across the federal workforce — can lead to costly, less-efficient government, we designated addressing agencies’ mission-critical skills gaps as a high-risk area in February 2011,” the Government Accountability Office wrote in a newly released report.

Known as...

READ MORE

The Office of Personnel Management has tasked an interagency working group to identify governmentwide programmatic skills gaps and measure progress toward closing them.

“Because skills gaps within individual federal agencies — as well as across the federal workforce — can lead to costly, less-efficient government, we designated addressing agencies’ mission-critical skills gaps as a high-risk area in February 2011,” the Government Accountability Office wrote in a newly released report.

Known as the Federal Agency Skills Team (FAST), the group is made up agency officials with a background in workforce planning and data analysis. It began in September 2011, when OPM and the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) Council established a working group charged with identifying and mitigating skills gaps in agencies’ mission-critical occupations (MCO).

The President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget designated the group’s status as an interim, Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) goal, with a duration of two years.

“More recently, the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget established closing skills gaps in the government-wide human resource workforce an OPM Agency Priority Goal,” the report said. “In addition, to promote agency leadership’s use of data to improve human capital management, in May 2012, OPM launched HRstat — a quarterly data- driven review led by each agency’s CHCO — to review performance metrics related to human resource goals, such as goals for closing skills gaps.”

OPM has given FAST the job of putting in place a standard and repeatable methodology to identify and mitigate skills gaps and MOCs governmentwide. This will be done over a four-year cycle.

In year one, FAST will meet regularly in order to identify a new set of skills gaps. OPM expects that to be accomplished by June 2015.

“FAST is to use a data-driven approach as an initial step for identifying a range of skills gaps, such as a survey of hiring managers’ satisfaction with job applicants’ skills. … Commerce already tracks this same survey of hiring managers’ satisfaction during its HRstat reviews,” the GAO report said. “A core set of metrics could integrate the work done by FAST with HRstat reviews.”

FAST’s next step will be to come up with a strategy to address the skills gaps during the remainder of its four-year cycle.

“In years two and three, OPM — in conjunction with FAST — is to designate leaders from within the selected government-wide occupations who will develop and implement plans to address those skills gaps,” the GAO report said. “Finally, in year four, FAST plans to evaluate and monitor outcomes to determine the effectiveness of those strategies. In addition, during the fourth year FAST plans to incorporate lessons learned into a revised process for identifying skills gaps at the federal level.”

In its report recommendations, GAO said that the OPM director and CHCO Council should assist FAST by setting goals and establishing clear and measurable targets for identifying skills gaps. They should also create outcome-oriented performance metrics that are inline with those targets.

In addition, OPM and the CHCO Council should solicit information from subject matter experts and make sure that FAST follows key project planning practices.

GAO also recommended that OPM:

  • “Establish a schedule specifying when OPM will modify its EHRI (Enterprise Human Resources Integration) database to capture staffing data that it currently collects from agencies through its annual workforce data reporting process.
  • “Work with agency CHCOs to bolster the ability of agencies to assess workforce competencies by sharing competency surveys, lessons learned, and other tools and resources.”

OPM agreed to most of GAO’s recommendations, but it did not agree the last two recommendations.

“Regarding EHRI, OPM maintained that it is impossible for the EHRI database to automatically capture staffing data currently included in MCO Resource Charts because some of these data includes specific agency projections and targets, which are provided via a manual data feed,” GAO wrote. “OPM stated that it is assessing whether EHRI can be modified to allow agencies to supply these manual feed data into the database system. We have modified our report to recognize that EHRI cannot automatically capture the same agency staffing data that are captured through the MCO Resource Charts.”

OPM also responded that resource and funding constraints limited its ability to help agencies deal with their workforce competencies.

“While funding limitations could affect OPM’s ability to take these actions, our recommendation would help OPM and agencies stretch resources by leveraging their knowledge and experience,” GAO wrote. “We therefore continue to believe OPM would benefit by implementing our recommendation.”

RELATED STORIES:

Survey reveals gaps in agency planning for next-generation workforce

CIO Council to survey IT worker skills