The Office of Personnel Management is extending and updating a five-year-old hiring authority to help agencies recruit more efficiently for jobs in STEM positions, cybersecurity and acquisitions.
In October 2018, OPM first issued the authority to help agencies bring on candidates faster in areas where there were critical skills shortages. The benefit of direct-hire authority is that agencies can skip over requirements of the recruitment process, like competitive rating, veterans’ preference and vacancy questions.
This time, in an effort to recruit for emerging fields like artificial intelligence, OPM added data science and operations research occupations under the authority.
More than 80% of federal agencies report having vacancies on their IT security teams, according to a survey of 106 security professionals and executives at U.S. federal agencies by Swimlane, a supplier of automation software to industry and government.
Other STEM fields eligible for the expedited hiring include economists, biologists, actuaries, statisticians and IT-cyber security specialists.
For more than two decades, OPM and agencies’ human resources offices have been trying to fill specific skills gaps in government for jobs that will become increasingly necessary for agencies’ IT modernization initiatives, adherence to zero-trust standards as mandated by the White House, and increasingly desire to make daily work more efficient through AI.
The revised rules will be in effect for a year unless OPM decides to terminate them early.
“OPM will use this time to explore additional modifications to the authority so that agencies can continue to address their most pressing hiring needs,” the agency said in the announcement.
In July, OPM also unveiled a version of USAJobs that specifically advertises STEM jobs to help prospective candidates find opportunities pertaining to them more easily.
That same month, the agency also published its highly anticipated list of AI competencies, as required the 2020 AI in Government Act. That resource helps guide agencies job analyses, which are statutory requirements that guide trainings, promotional benchmarks, and how positions are defined.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.