OPM, DOL to use data, early-career pathways to advance hiring equity

To advance equity, the Office of Personnel Management will make demographic data analysis easier for agencies, while the Labor Department will target underserve...

The Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor will expand their equity strategies through both entry-level workforce programs and demographic data analysis.

Those efforts come as part of 300 actions from more than 90 agencies to advance equity in federal services, following an executive order from the White House.

By improving agencies’ use of data and expanding applicant pools, OPM said it’s looking to add more pathways to federal service for underserved communities.

OPM announced that it will use demographic information from applications, called applicant flow data, to identify and address equity gaps in who applies for federal positions. The first milestone is to locate barriers to equitable hiring for federal jobs.

Demographic data on job applicants has been available for a long time, but the problem comes when agencies have to put that data in practice. That’s partly because it has been difficult to use that data effectively, OPM wrote in its equity action plan.

“Applicant demographic data is voluntarily collected but historically has not been easily available to, and usable by, human resource offices to identify root causes for drop-off patterns and interventions to address them,” OPM stated.

To address the disconnect between data collection and data use, OPM said in its equity action plan that it will collaborate with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help inform future hiring across agencies.

The EEOC said that through routine collaboration with OPM, it tailors data training tactics for different agencies.

“The EEOC has partnered and will continue to partner with OPM on strategies to improve the collection of the data and methods to effectively leverage the data,” an EEOC spokesperson told Federal News Network.

The data ultimately goes to the EEOC through the annual Management Directive 715 collection. EEOC then analyzes agencies’ efforts to improve equal employment opportunity.

“OPM will provide agencies with an easily accessible, comprehensive dataset that will enable more detailed analysis on barriers in the hiring process,” the agency stated in its plan.

The focus on strengthening data use additionally surfaces in OPM’s strategic plan for fiscal 2022-2026. Among several goals aiming to strengthen diversity, the plan highlights the use of applicant flow data by agency heads.

OPM gave itself the deadline of Sept. 30, 2023, to increase by 5% the number of hiring managers who review applicant flow data trends from past recruitment efforts.

DOL expanding equitable apprenticeship opportunities

In another effort to address barriers to equitable federal hiring, the Labor Department said it will develop more programs for government apprenticeships, casting a wider net to reach underserved communities for applicant pools.

Apprenticeships are entry-level trainee jobs that include mentoring, classroom instruction and hands-on experience.

Those types of programs “can provide new pathways to federal service for job applicants and help close the gap for the demand for skilled workers,” DOL wrote in its equity action plan.

The agency pointed to several barriers that it would need to address when implementing the apprenticeship program. For example, pre-qualifications, geographical limits and lack of support for relocation could all prevent an equitable applicant database.

But, DOL said it will address those challenges by collaborating with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, national advocacy organizations and local community partners, to name a few. That collaboration can promote pathways to federal service for more diverse groups.

The Labor Department is also in the process of establishing technology apprenticeships, as part of an effort to train entry-level and early-career workers. The goal is to ultimately fill much-needed technology positions across government.

DOL said it will widely publicize recruitment for key positions that are used across multiple agencies. That includes roles such as program analysts, program specialists, training representatives and project and contracting officers.

The Labor Department added that it would collaborate with OPM to expand apprenticeship opportunities. Specifically, DOL will work with OPM to consider large-scale recruitment efforts that can benefit multiple agencies looking to hire. The agency will also increase flexibilities that can expand jobs to more localities, particularly those that are underrepresented.

Together, DOL and OPM’s equity action plans build on the President’s Management Agenda, which addresses the importance of using data more effectively in federal hiring.

As part of the PMA’s first priority, strengthening and empowering the federal workforce, the Office of Management and Budget calls on agencies to use applicant flow data to identify and address barriers.

They’re then asked to consider possible connections to policies, procedures and practices within the agency that might be upholding those barriers.

Agencies will plan to implement the PMA priority in part by adding more notifications for job applicants during the recruitment process, as well as expanding continuous vetting of federal positions, OMB stated.

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