NIST to speed up hiring for critical positions

Wednesday - 1/5/2011, 2:26pm EST

By Meg Beasley
Reporter
Federal News Radio

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is changing its hiring protocol in order to fill critical positions faster.

The NIST notice changes the agency's Alternative Personnel Management System (APMS) on a pilot basis beginning Jan. 5 for one year.

All agencies are currently allowed to appoint candidates directly to jobs for which Office of Personnel Management determines there is a severe personnel shortage or critical need.

NIST's modifications of its 13-year-old protocol will designate several positions as eligible for the direct hire provision, eliminating the standard examination period and filling jobs faster.

The agency hopes the changes will improve upon a successful program. A 1995 study conducted by OPM after APMS's initial implementation showed NIST became more competitive for talent, retained more top performers and increased ability of managers to make important pay decisions.

The NIST positions effected by the change include all positions in the scientific and engineering career path at pay band III and above, nuclear reactor operator positions in the scientific and engineering technician career path at pay band III and above, and all occupations for which there is a special rate under the General Schedule (GS) pay system. These positions will now be listed in direct-hire occupations on the OPM USAJobs website.

NIST first instituted AMPS in 1987 and has been used in its current form since 1997. According to the agency, the program is intended to:

  • Improve hiring by letting NIST compete more effectively for high-quality researchers through direct hiring, selective use of higher entry salaries and selective use of recruiting allowances.

  • Motivate and retain staff through higher pay potential, pay-for-performance, more responsive personnel systems and use of retention allowances.

  • Strengthen the managers' role in personnel management through delegation of personnel authorities.

  • Increase the efficiency of personnel systems through the installation of a simpler and more flexible classification system based on pay banding.

The agency plans to modify the new system as experience is gained, results are analyzed and conclusions about its effectiveness are seen.

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