Existing shortages in the federal workforce, coupled with a recently passed infrastructure bill that will require several federal agencies to implement, will mean “significant work” for federal hiring managers, according to a Dec. 1 Office of Personnel Management memo.

“Federal agencies will be front-and-center in carrying through on this commitment to build back better from the pandemic. Agencies need to hire now to fill essential and mission-driven roles: scientists to combat climate change, engineers to repair and rebuild our roads and bridges and workers to help ensure that every community in America has clean water, just to name a few,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja wrote in the memo to agency HR leaders.

“The jobs needed to implement the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] are on top of other critical hiring needs the federal government faces to invest in our communities, support the nation’s economy and advance justice.”

Outside of standard competitive hiring practices, many of the authorities available to agencies fall under a temporary or term appointment, meaning the new employee is intended to help with an immediate need or defined project at the agency.

Such appointments can be for as little as 30 days or as long as four years, depending on the type of work the employee is needed to perform.

Such appointments could prove useful for agencies that need workers to respond to projects outlined in the infrastructure bill that require immediate effort but will not be part of that agency’s permanent operations.

Agencies may also apply for or make use of governmentwide approvals of direct hire authorities, in instances where there is either a severe shortage of candidates or a critical need for certain positions.

HR officials may pursue retired employees or experts at other agencies to fill critically needed positions without going through the normal competitive process.

Agencies have three hiring authorities for veterans, whether disabled from their service or just retired from duty, as well as the ability to appoint military spouses to temporary or permanent positions.

Returning Peace Corps and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers are granted one year of noncompetitive eligibility when they return from their service, enabling agencies to appoint them to open, classified positions for which that volunteer has the necessary qualifications.

Agency hiring managers have noted in the past they have too many different hiring authorities to keep track of and would prefer a more consolidated method for expeditiously hiring needed employees.

As part of the anticipated hiring surge, OPM released a Talent Surge Executive Playbook, intended as a user-friendly reference for agency leaders and hiring managers to understand which authorities they can use for their open positions.

“Given current and future demands, agencies will need to hire quickly, and at scale. With this resource, OPM is working to make sure agencies have hiring best-practices easily accessible so that they can streamline their processes and match the strongest talent to their open roles,” Ahuja wrote in the memo.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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