OFPP, OPM join forces to recruit acquisition workers

Friday - 2/11/2011, 3:32pm EST

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Agencies will receive two new tools this spring to improve their recruiting of acquisition workers.

The Office of Personnel Management will launch an assessment tool for the 1102 contracting series, a new collaboration website for agency recruiters to share best practices and lessons learned and hold a training session on hiring in Washington.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy and OPM are working together to help agencies overcome the shortage of qualified contracting officers, contracting officers technical representatives, program managers and others in the acquisition workforce.

In a memo to agency chief acquisition officers and senior procurement executives, Dan Gordon, OFPP administrator, reminded agencies of the assortment of hiring flexibilities that exist now, and detailed the new tools that are coming.

"Determining effective hiring strategies is a shared responsibility of the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO), the Chief Acquisition Officer (CAO) and those designated by their agencies to strengthen the acquisition workforce," Gordon wrote.

The memo is the latest in the administration attempt to increase the number of acquisition workers. Over the last decade, the number of these workers has remained flat, while the procurement budget doubled. OFPP required an acquisition workforce strategic development plan from each agency, and asked for $158 million for training in the fiscal 2011 budget.

The Office of Management and Budget in 2009 detailed a three-pronged approach to addressing acquisition workforce issues: First, strengthening acquisition workforce planning. Second, improve training and development. Third, increasing recruitment and retention.

The increased focus on the acquisition workforce comes as the Government Accountability Office found that 55 percent of the current employees will be eligible to retire in 2018 - more than twice the number eligible in 2008.

In the latest memo, OFPP reminds agencies about the hiring authorities they can use, including veterans preference, direct hirer authority and the reemployment annuitants.

"Agencies are authorized to fill critical resource gaps in 1102 series positions at entry and senior levels, 1105 positions, and other members of the acquisition workforce, such as program managers, contracting officer's technical representatives, and any others with significant acquisition responsibilities as identified in OFPP Policy Letter 05-01, Improving the Acquisition Workforce,1 and identified by the Chief Acquisition Officer. Positions at the GS-05 to GS-07 levels of the 1102 series positions can only be filled through using the Administrative Careers With America (ACWA) examination or an agency-developed examination," the memo states.

The authority, however, expires Sept. 30, 2012.

In addition to the existing authorities, OPM is preparing to issue its online applicant assessment tool that will use computer adaptive testing, which adjusts the level of difficulty of the questions based on an applicant's previous responses.

"Animated situational judgment assessments will present applicants with occupation-specific scenarios and ask them to respond," the memo states. "Together, these tools will measure an applicant's proficiency in a variety of general competencies, such as interpersonal skills, math, reading comprehension, and logical reasoning."

OPM will kick off the online assessments with three financial occupational series in February and then add eight other professions, including the 1102 series later this year.

Additionally, OPM will launch phase 1 of USAJobs version 3.0 to include the assessment tools. Version 3.0 will include a sub-site USAJobsRecuirt.gov, expected to go live in March.

"This site will offer a unique federal community, a place where human resources professionals, hiring managers and federal employees interested in recruiting can connect, discuss challenges and opportunities and seek solutions together," Gordon wrote. "Key features include a recruiting toolkit with checklists, training modules, job aids and templates. The site will include blogs and discussion forums by and for federal employees, a recruiting event calendar and a webinar series featuring federal best recruiting practices."

The memo also includes current best practices OFPP collected over the past year on hiring and recruiting strategies, and includes specific agency best practices.

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