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Wanted: Midcareer acquisition workers

May. 6, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By TOM SPOTH   |   Comments
The government has a dearth of midlevel employees "because we didn't hire and develop them," Steve Kempf, acting commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service.
The government has a dearth of midlevel employees "because we didn't hire and develop them," Steve Kempf, acting commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service. (TOM BROWN / STAFF)

ORLANDO, Fla. The government needs to hire midcareer contracting officers from the private sector to fill midlevel vacancies in its acquisition workforce.

The government has a dearth of midlevel employees "because we didn't hire and develop them," Steve Kempf, acting commissioner of GSA's Federal Acquisition Service, said at this week's GSA Expo here. The administration is now pushing to woo private-sector workers "the folks we were negotiating with" to the federal government, Kempf said.

Joanie Newhart, a senior adviser on acquisition workforce issues at GSA, called the dearth of midlevel workers a "bathtub effect," with higher levels of entry-level and senior-level employees but a trough in the middle. "We're trying to right-size the workforce," she said.

New streamlined hiring practices could help fix the problem, said Karen Pica of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Hiring for midlevel acquisition professionals now relies on resumes and no longer the "knowledge, skills and abilities" essays previously required of job candidates. Job postings have been reduced from 23 pages to three or four and are written in plain English, Pica said.

"An agency can interview and hire much more quickly," Pica said.

For its part, GSA is developing an "immersion program" so workers with extensive contracting experience but no government experience can get up to speed quickly, Newhart said.

The governmentwide hiring effort kicked off in April and has already attracted thousands of applications, Newhart said.

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