Replenishing the ranks

The federal work force could lose nearly a million employees over the next

few years from retirement alone. So it is more important than ever for agencies

to set aside money for initiatives to train and retain workers, including

World Wide Web-based training and Internet forums.

To underscore this point, one top lawmaker recently urged the government

to consider a strategic training plan that would address the transformations

occurring in the federal work force and the commercial marketplace.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said that not all federal agencies are

emphasizing training programs the way they should. And the need is urgent.

By 2004, 32 percent of the federal work force will be eligible for regular

retirement and another 21 percent will qualify for early retirement, Voinovich

said during a hearing of the Senate Oversight of Government Management,

Restructuring and the District of Columbia Subcommittee. "And there are

high-tech skills being acquired in the private sector at a pace that the

government cannot currently match," Voinovich said.

Others agree that training is essential for the future success of agencies.

"I believe training is the anchor to a successful and strong work force

and that we need to invest in these critical training programs," Sen. Daniel

Akaka (D-Hawaii) said at the hearing.

Some agencies are increasingly turning to innovative ways to train their

employees. For example, the Labor Department delivers employment law training

to federal employees and small businesses through expert systems. And the

State Department teaches 60 foreign languages using a mix of computer-based

training, satellite downlinks, video and audio systems, and the Internet,

according to John Sepulveda, deputy director of the Office of Personnel

Management.

However, most agencies do not have separate training budgets and even

fewer have benchmarked training requirements. In fact, only a handful of

agencies — including the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of

Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration — have previously requested

major training investments, according to the written testimony of Deidre

Lee, acting deputy director for management at the Office of Management and

Budget.

However, such investments may become more widespread. OMB plans to help

agencies incorporate training goals and measures into their annual performance

plans, specifically for their fiscal 2002 budgets, Sepulveda said.

In addition, he said that OPM, which has statutory responsibility for

governmentwide training policy and guidance, is working on training programs

that affect all levels of government employees.

In the area of executive development, OPM is exploring ways of using

the Internet to increase interaction among federal managers.

"In response to requests for a centralized information database of executive

development opportunities, we are partnering with agencies to provide an

electronic clearinghouse for such opportunities," Sepulveda said.

OPM is also using an online tool to help senior executives broaden their

work experience through mobility. "To assist in this, we are developing

an Internet forum to facilitate voluntary mobility by linking interested

executives with agency opportunities," he said.

Ultimately, how well agencies define the competencies necessary to do

their jobs will be the key to making progress, Sepulveda said. "Agencies

need to define the competencies to meet their missions. They need to identify

their training needs, and then the OMB can work with them to get the appropriate

measures in the budget process."

OPM is already testing draft competencies as well as draft specialty

job titles for IT workers.

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