HR University slated to open in January

Wednesday - 11/17/2010, 7:13am EST

WFED's Jason Miller

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Chief Human Capital Officer's Council is reversing a decision the Office of Personnel Management made 17 years ago to get out of the standardized training business.

The CHCO Council will launch the Human Resources University in early 2011 in response to a growing need to train federal HR employees and because of continued budget tightening.

"When OPM stopped providing governmentwide training, a gap developed at most agencies," said Kathryn Medina, executive director of the CHCO Council, Tuesday at the HCMF conference in Vienna, Va. "We know what the skills sets are for HR specialists and managers in government, there is a need for soft skills and technical skills."

The council planned launch of the HR University is part of a broader initiative to improve the federal HR process.

OPM is expected to announce Wednesday agency progress in meeting the HR reforms outlined last May in President Obama's memo.

The reforms include stopping the use of knowledge, skills and abilities essays and moving to a resume based system, using category ratings and reducing the time it takes to hire new employees.

The White House gave agencies until Nov. 1 to meet certain goals.

The HR University will address those gaps in several different ways. Medina said the CHCO Council has been taking an inventory of existing training courses from across the government. A working group has been looking at what can be shared or tweaked so it can be used by the widest number of employees.

"We will vet these courses through an OPM process and put them in a central place for the HR community," she said. "We will put courses in the university that are ready to go whether it's OPM's course on Schedule A hiring authority or the ones OPM is developing around category ratings."

Medina said the departments of Veterans Affairs, Energy and Treasury as well as NASA all have advanced training courses the council will look to bring into the university.

"This is our flag on the moon or how we are making our mark," she said. "Now we want people to look and tell us what we are missing and what more we need to do."

After the first iteration of the university is online, the council will review what gaps in training courses remain and look to vendors, agencies and others to add new courses.

Medina said the portal also will give users the ability to sort courses by location, whether they are online or in person and by cost.

She added that the Defense Acquisition University model is one they are trying to follow, but not all at once.

One member of the audience who works at the Homeland Security Department and has 25 years of experience in federal HR praised the council for creating the university. The employee said when OPM stopped providing training governmentwide she knew there would be problems.

The university is one of several initiatives the CHCO Council is working on to improve and further develop HR employees.

Medina said the council is reviewing the General Schedule 201 series for HR specialists and managers, developing a career map for HR professionals and in the early stages of developing certification requirements for human resources employees.

All of these efforts either compliment or add to the university initiative.

"It was great timing to work on the career map for the 201 series and the decision to go forward with the HR University," Medina said. "We are just about finished with the career map and we hope to incorporate it in to the university."

She added that she sees the career map and a corresponding competency framework fitting into a matrix-like structure with proficiency levels.

"The career map will lead to a set of curriculum that shows how HR professionals can move laterally and eventually become more senior," she said. "It shows how employees can progress in this multi-dimensional framework."

The council also is just starting to work on a certification program for HR employees.

Medina said the council believes there needs to be a governmentwide program, and it has the support of OPM Director John Berry.

"The challenge is to build it to what the broader population wants it to be," she said. "Some believe if you complete the HR University, you are certified. But it doesn't work that way, not in the private sector at least. Experience and demonstrating your skills along with the course work is how it works."

She added that the council decided not to combine the HR University with the certification program for several reasons, but the biggest one is they wanted to get the training and education courses out quickly.

"I'm not in favor of mandatory certification for HR employees," Medina said. "I think it's helpful and brings a certain level of authority and professionalism to the job. But I don't think mandatory is the way to go."

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