OPM puts career advice online -

To help agencies plug staff holes and create their own technical experts, the Office of
Personnel Management has established a new online career counseling service.


The USACareers system gives agencies an automated toolkit for evaluating a person's job
skills, interests and training needs.


OPM officials said the new interactive personnel testing program is intended to help
federal employees chart direct career paths and cope with downsizing pressures.


"It's a customer-driven product for employees and line managers," said
Marilyn Gowing, director of OPM's Personnel Resources and Development Center.


"For years we had employees moving up a single career ladder. But now we're seeing
more latitude from one occupational series to another," Gowing said. "We want to
maximize the skills of our employees in an era of downsizing and restructuring."


OPM developed USACareers with a consortium of seven other agencies: the departments of
Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation; and NASA, the
National Park Service and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.


The system has occupational information on the core tasks and competencies defined in
each federal job series.


OPM collected the data through a governmentwide survey of 170,000 government employees.


Dick Whitford, director of OPM's Washington Service Center and Employment Information
Office, said the system is designed to respond to agency demands for an occupational
database by leading users through a comprehensive career planning session.


Starting with an interactive skills test, users can gauge their qualifications for any
federal job listed in the database. The diagnostic tests can be taken alone or with input
from supervisors or colleagues.


The system also provides access to USA Jobs, OPM's online listing of the government's
job vacancy announcements.


In addition, users can create resumes online, file electronic applications for agency
jobs, compare federal career paths against comparable private sector employment tracks and
review a list of government training programs.


"USACareers is designed to serve many purposes and be exceptionally
accessible," Whitford said.


"The database contains training courses available throughout the government,
including courses offered by the General Services Administration, the Agriculture
Department's Graduate School and OPM," he said. "It also allows each agency to
blend their own programs with the database."


Whitford said the USACareers database and skills programs will be made available via
the Internet and in standalone versions for PCs.


OPM is charging subscription service and support fees ranging from $6,000 per system
for a population of 300 users to $65,000 per system for user populations exceeding 5,000
people.


The system currently resides on two 200-MHz Pentium Pro servers running Microsoft
Corp.'s SQL Server and Windows NT 4.0 Server.


For the standalone version, users must have at least a 486 PC running Microsoft Windows
3.1 with 16M of RAM and 20M of space on the hard drive.


More information about the system is available at the USACareer World Wide Web site at http://www.usacareers.opm.gov.

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