OPM tells agencies to get serious about closing gov’t skills gaps

The Office of Personnel Management is telling agencies to focus more intently on closing six governmentwide critical skills gaps, and it has a new road map to help them get started.

“OPM will provide guidance and tools on conducting root cause analysis, developing an action plan, setting targets and developing outcome-oriented metrics,” Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert wrote in an April 15 memo to agency CHCOs. “Additionally, OPM will provide support in helping achieve their skills gap closure objectives.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cybersecurity, as well as the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields top the list of mission critical occupations where government needs the most help attracting and retaining new talent.

OPM also identified economists, human resources specialists, auditors and acquisition specialists as high risk occupations.

A leader representing each mission critical occupation will work with agency chief human capital officers to identify why that area is “high risk” in the first place before developing a governmentwide plan for closing skills gaps.

Each agency will appoint one person to lead and coordinate the organization’s work in closing skills gaps, Cobert said. They’ll develop four and 10-year strategies and an official action plan, which they will submit to OPM.

OPM will track agencies’ progress on their goals through quarterly HRStat reviews, Cobert said.

Individual CHCOs also identified skills gaps within their own agencies that impact their specific missions, she said. Agencies are expected to report their progress in closing both governmentwide and specific mission gaps to the CHCO Council on a quarterly and annual basis.

Recruiting and hiring new cybersecurity professionals in particular has been a challenge for agencies. OPM signed off last November on an authority for the Homeland Security Department to hire at least 1,000 new cyber professionals. But DHS leadership said they’ve had a tough time competing with the private sector for top talent.

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