OPM takes steps to keep IT workers by reclassifying jobs, monitoring recruitment

OPM takes steps to keep IT workers by reclassifying jobs, monitoring recruitment

By Christopher J. Dorobek
GCN Staff

As agencies struggle to attract and keep information technology workers, the Office of Personnel Management has taken a step toward what could become a complete overhaul of IT jobs classifications.

OPM recently released a draft list of job titles and job profiles for federal computer specialists and telecommunications workers. OPM also issued new guidance for evaluating candidates for IT jobs that focuses on skills rather than formal education and years of experience.

'Our goal is to respond to agency concerns that today's tight labor market requires innovative, optimal approaches to IT recruitment and assessment, with particular reference to information security issues,'' the OPM document said.

Agencies now are restricted in how they can recruit for IT posts, officials said, and most IT workers are classified under the GS-334 computer specialist and GS-391 telecommunications series. Those classifications, however, only offer broad categorizations.

The new guidelines seek to align the classifications with how IT jobs are categorized in the private sector, officials said.

The OPM memo was sent to personnel directors and the Chief Information Officers Council for comment and is posted at cio.gov/docs/itdraft2.html.

The OPM memo is intended to help agencies attract and retain IT workers, said Ira Hobbs, Agriculture Department deputy CIO and co-chairman of the CIO Council's IT Work Force Committee.

The new specialties will let agencies target their requirements, Hobbs said.

The job classifications will be available after Jan. 1, said Henry Romero, OPM's associate director for work force compensation and performance.

The new categories will also help agencies determine more precisely where they are having problems recruiting staff, Romero said.

The memo proposes 11 new title definitions:

  • Communications services

  • Customer support

  • Data management

  • Enterprise

  • Information security

  • Network services

  • Project management

  • Software development

  • Systems administration

  • Systems analysis

  • Web development

OPM also included a no-specialty category to cover new or evolving areas.

The agency also will conduct studies in the coming months, Romero said. One study will look at a work force planning tool to define critical skill areas for the future, describe how to develop a pipeline of people with those skills, and recommend how to attract those people to government work.

Where to reform

The future studies will not review pay issues, Romero said, although they could show where the pay problems are'for example, at the entry or executive level. 'That will show us where reform needs to be done,'' he said.

Separately, OPM is considering restructuring the federal pay system, Romero said. But any recommendations are not expected to be submitted for at least 18 months and would cover the entire federal work force, not just IT workers.

'The IT community is saying they can't wait that long,'' he said. The CIO Council is voting on a proposal to have the National Academy of Public Administration conduct a salary study about IT pay [GCN, Aug. 9, Page 1].

Any reforms, however, ought to include the overall IT work force, Romero said. 'With a work force in the executive branch of nearly 800,000 workers,'' he said.

OPM needs to maintain a balance for all workers. 'Anybody who gets something, everybody else says, 'We want it, too.' '

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