OPM seeks boost in SES ranks

The Federal Executive Institute

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The Office of Personnel Management April 10 launched a governmentwide candidate development program designed to bring more women, minorities and people with disabilities into the Senior Executive Service (SES).

The Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program is aimed at correcting an imbalance, said OPM Director Kay Coles James. For instance, of the 7,000 SES members, only 13 percent are minorities and about 25 percent are women, she said.

"We know we have a mission" to get candidates through the program and get them into real jobs, James said. The program "will show agencies how it can be done," she said at a briefing.

OPM will recruit candidates nationwide and from inside and outside government, said Steve Benowitz, associate director for human resources products and services at OPM. If an agency seeks a person with a technology background or with a particular technical skill, OPM can specifically advertise for that person, he said. In general though, OPM is looking for people with leadership experience and potential.

OPM will temporarily increase the number of SES employees that agencies can hire so that they can tap candidates who graduate from the program. However, OPM will not provide agencies with additional funding to hire them, a potential sticking point especially for small agencies.

The new program is the first step in addressing diversity in SES, said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), who commissioned a General Accounting Office report that found SES lacked diversity. "Even as far as we have come there is still much farther to go," he said at the briefing.

Some features of the program include:

* OPM's Federal Executive Institute, which offers courses to SES members and GS-15 employees, will run the new candidate development program.

* OPM expects to have two programs a year consisting of 40 to 50 participants each.

* The program lasts 12 to 14 months.

* Once in the program, students will have their own development plan consisting of assignments, classroom work, mentoring and performance assessments.

* OPM will advertise the program via its USAJobs Web site, www.usajobs.opm.gov, in newspapers and directly to agencies.

* The program is open to individuals at the GS-14 and the GS-15 grade levels or equivalents.

* Candidates brought in from outside government will first become federal employees.

* Graduates of the program are certified by an SES Qualifications Review Board and may be selected for an SES position anywhere in the federal government without further competition.

* The program should be ready to accept applications in four to six months.

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