Agencies to build PC skills database

Two federal agencies have teamed up to develop a database that would include an outline of the computer skills that all federal employees must have to do their jobs and a storehouse of online computer training courses.

The Education Department and the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service plan to develop a list of "computer competencies" that will be informal recommendations, not requirements, said Stephen Gorey, chief of information resources management at MMS and a member of the CIO Council, which is overseeing the project. The competencies, at this point, will not play a role in employees' job evaluations, he said.

"We know that throughout the government there is an uneven playing field," Gorey said. "Some people are very good at using their computers, and others aren't. This whole thing is aimed at leveling that."

The CIO Council and other groups, however, are working on a set of codified competencies that could be formally yoked to job descriptions, Gorey said.

The computer competencies will be a first step in addressing the Clinton administration's mandate for more training in technology. In January, President Clinton issued Executive Order 13111, which directed federal agencies to "take certain steps to enhance employees' training opportunities through the use of training technology" and called for a more technically adept work force. "We want to get to the point where people aren't using a calculator to figure out how to do things," Gorey said. "They [should be] using a spreadsheet because the spreadsheet is there on their desktop."

Many agencies that did not want to be identified are compiling computer competencies lists, "and what we're trying to do is identify the learning resource for the employees to achieve the competencies," said a spokesperson for The Learning Network said, DOE's online computer training school.

The outline of the informal set of competencies and much of the potential coursework for the proposed training database already exist, Gorey said. DOE has put together a detailed list of computer competencies, he said.

The list of competencies and The Learning Network's coursework probably will be used extensively in the proposed database, he added.

Gorey said the network offers a range of classes, including those for employees with no computer skills that teach how to use a mouse or how to use a spreadsheet, and those for experienced computer users that teach more advanced applications.

Gloria Parker, chief information officer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the co-chairwoman of the CIO Council's Education and Training Committee, said the training will make it easier to learn computer skills.

"They can get online and take courses relevant to their jobs without having to leave their desk or to schedule classes," she said. "They can take it at their own pace. It's an excellent idea."

MMS and DOE are reviewing proposals from vendors to transform DOE's internal training program into a World Wide Web-based, governmentwide application.

The CIO Council hopes to award development of the database to a commercial vendor by the fall, he said.

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