Tech tools help fight work force shortage

Faced with an aging work force, a tight labor market and a rising demand

for workers with high-tech skills, the Office of Personnel Management is

acutely aware that federal agencies need help working through the federal

high-tech work force crisis.

OPM is developing a high-tech system to help agencies stay ahead of the

labor supply curve. OPM has asked SAS Institute Inc. to develop a work force

planning model and information system that agencies could tap to analyze

their work force needs. The system, open to all agencies, will draw on a

data warehouse of work force-related information to help agencies ease the

labor crunch.

OPM said having the ability to do such analysis is particularly important

now. As agencies begin to deliver more services electronically to the public,

"we must ensure that we continue to recruit the right people for the right

job," said Janice Lachance, director of OPM. "At the end of the day, agency

human resource managers will be able to focus on the skill gaps of their

future work forces" to provide the best services and meet performance-based

goals, she said.

In work force planning, agencies consider what they need to accomplish in

a given period of time; what knowledge, skills, and areas of competence

are required to get the job done; and how large and what type of work force

they need.

The automated system for the first time will enable users to view through

a single interface governmentwide employment data together with agency-

specific employment data. In addition, agencies will be able to pull information

from other sources including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census

Bureau and universities.

More importantly, agencies will use the system to anticipate changes

in attrition; identify retirement trends; and assess skills supply and demand,

occupational shortages and growth, and recruiting opportunities, OPM officials

said.

The system will enable OPM to do some of the analysis it cannot currently

do, such as salary analysis and geographic head count analysis. "They will

be able to do it within more defined data sources and have a more accurate

picture of results," said Kristine Vick, human resources solutions partner

for SAS Institute's public-sector group.

The foundation of the system is a data warehouse, based on SAS' commercial

software package HR Vision. Data will be reorganized and stored in an easily

searchable data warehouse according to subjects such as compensation, benefits

and employee demographics.

Agencies will be able to access the data from a single point of service

via a World Wide Web browser. A data warehouse instead of a transactional

system, which is constantly updated, also will make it easier for agencies

to search and compare work force data, Vick said.

Agencies hope to get access to the system sooner rather than later.

"I've heard about the OPM system and I think it will be very useful, particularly

in the IT domain," said James Buckner, chief information officer at the

Army Materiel Command. "If you look at the Clinger-Cohen Act...we in the

CIO domain realize that one of our primary functions as a CIO is to continuously

assess our IT work force needs."

The Defense Department employs about 60,000 information technology workers,

Buckner said, which includes 10,000 to 12,000 IT workers in the Army. He

anticipates that the cur- rent 10 percent to 12 percent vacancy rate for

IT positions will creep even higher.

It is essential to identify any gaps in personnel and update plans for hiring,

training and keeping people on-board, Buckner said. The system "would be

a great asset to us to do that job better," he said.

OPM plans to test and evaluate the prototype system in late spring and complete

the final version by the end of next year.

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