Good news in the EVS: A well-educated federal workforce

Not all the news in the 2014 Employee Viewpoint Survey is bad. In fact, some of it’s quite good when it comes to the education of federal employees.

The Office of Personnel Management surveys more than 400,000 federal employees each year on their level of satisfaction in the workplace. When OPM released the most recent EVS report earlier in October, most of the media focus was on the low scores senior managers received across-the-board from their employees.

“While leaders across the government would like to see these scores go up, we have to remember that this has been a very difficult time for federal employees,” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, at the time. “It’s going to take time for them to recover from an extended period of sequestration, furloughs and a government shutdown.”

Now, OPM has released Making the Grade: The Story of an Increasingly Well-Educated Federal Workforce, a new report touting how feds are improving their education while in the federal service.

“Of the survey respondents who entered the Federal workforce a decade ago, 39 percent have increased their education,” the report says. “For those who started with a high school diploma as their highest degree (about a quarter of the workforce), the vast majority — 86 percent — improved their educational status.”

Federal employees improved their education by receiving certification in particular skills or obtaining an associate’s, bachelor’s or post-graduage degree.

“Of the employees who entered Federal service a decade ago with a high school degree, 48 percent obtained a certificate or associate’s degree, 24 percent obtained a bachelor’s degree and 13 percent obtained an advanced degree,” the report says.

Employees who stay in federal service with just a high school diploma or an associate’s degree have a 15 percent chance of becoming a manager or supervisor, according the report. However, if that employee gets a bachelor’s, that number goes up to 18 percent, and it climbs even higher — to 23 percent — if that employee obtains a post-graduate degree.

The survey data also revealed some disparities among the different racial and ethnic groups when it comes to education of federal employees.

“A slightly higher proportion of whites and Hispanics in government have bachelor’s degrees (35 percent) than African Americans (30 percent),” the report says. “Gaps are slightly more pronounced among employees with post- bachelor’s degrees. Thirty-six percent of whites have a postbachelor’s degree, compared to 28 percent for both African Americans and Hispanics.”

In addition, about 5 percent more men have bachelor’s degrees compared to women. The gap closes slightly — to 3 percent — when it comes to post-graduate degrees.

The story continues after the OPM infographic.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

According to OPM’s data, employees who increase their education feel more vested in their organization, and those who obtain an advanced degree are better off financially. Of those responding to the survey, 63 percent said their supervisors are supportive of employee development.

“Investing in the development of our workforce is not only critical in maintaining a competitive and well-equipped workforce, it is also a very useful tool to recruit and retain our employees,” Archuleta said, in a release. “From resume to retirement, I want to make sure that we provide the tools that employees need to develop and to succeed.”

Thanks to an authority under the Chief Human Capital Officers Act of 2002, the goverment will pick up a portion of an employee’s education expenses.

Earlier in 2014, OPM kicked off an initiative with the University of Maryland University College that provided a 25 percent discount on out-of-state tuition. So far, almost 800 federal employees and members of their families have taken advantage of this discount.

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