Agencies taking closer look at human capital issues

Federal officials finally seem to be recognizing the importance of their employees. Representatives from the CIO, Federal Acquisition, Chief Financial Officers and the Chief Human Capital Officers councils said today that workforce training and hiring issues are among their top priorities.

'Paying close attention to human capital issues has taken the latest step in the management evolution,' said Mike Dovilla, executive director of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council. 'It is being treated as a high-level management issue.'

Clarence Crawford, OPM's CFO and associate director for management, said almost all of the government's work starts with people.

'For the CFO, people design financial systems, the internal controls, and work with other professions in the agency,' Crawford said yesterday at a panel discussion at the FOSE trade show in Washington. 'We are doing a better job in having better financial data than ever before, but there still is a basic core knowledge and skill issue in basic financial management that we must continue to have. What we are seeing is the number of people graduating with CPAs and financial management degrees is declining. We have to find ways to get people skilled and provide training that we once expected people to walk in the door with.'

Dan Matthews, Transportation Department CIO and vice chairman of the CIO Council, said most agencies are faced with a similar issue when it comes to finding qualified project and program managers.

He said the CIO community defined the project management skills needed and developed training plans for employees to acquire those skills. He said from that training, CIOs expect better performance in delivering e-government projects.

But finding funding for training has always been a challenge for agencies. Matthews said one of the unwritten rules in government is that training is among the first cuts in tight budgets.

OPM officials are trying to take better control of their training funds. Crawford said each division within the agency must develop a training plan that focuses on closing its skill gaps. Each plan must be approved by OPM director Kay Coles James, and officials review the progress on the plans quarterly.

'In the past, we just placed training funds in an account and didn't worry what happened to it,' Crawford said. 'Now the funds must be tied back to the human capital plan.'

Glenn Perry, vice chair of the Federal Acquisition Council and the director of contracts and purchasing at the Education Department, said agencies may see some relief next fiscal year when the acquisition training fund becomes available. He said an interagency group is working on the structure and policy for the fund, which was created by the Service Acquisition Reform Act of 2003.

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