Federal Workers’ Skills Gap Costs Overruns of 44 Percent
Policy + Politics

Federal Workers’ Skills Gap Costs Overruns of 44 Percent

Reuters/Jim Urquhart

The federal government is about to have a huge problem if it doesn’t figure out a better way to recruit workers with the necessary skill sets to successfully and efficiently do their jobs—especially for IT and cybersecurity jobs—areas where it seems to be struggling the most. 

That’s according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, which found that the growing “skills gap” among federal workers poses "a high risk to the nation because it impedes the government from cost-effectively serving the public and achieving results.” 

Related: Fed Gov Pays Workers $5 Million to Not Work 

Auditors said the skills gap is most common among government careers in cybersecurity and information technology, auditors, contract and acquisition specialists, economists, human resource specialists, scientists and engineers, according to the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) Council Working Group – areas that affect nearly every federal agency. 

That’s alarming since these positions are among the most crucial—especially at a time when the government is trying to update its technology. A survey from cloud provider Eduserv last year found that lack of skills around cloud computing contributed to issues with the federal government adopting the technology. According to the poll, nine in 10 federal workers required some form of training to use the cloud.

The survey also found that 51 percent of respondents believe their federal agency didn’t have the technical skills to move to the cloud.

The auditors said the skill deficits are already affecting the government’s missions. For example, hiring challenges at the Department of Interior have resulted in fewer inspections of oil and gas facilities. This “results in an increased risk to human health and safety due to a spill or accident.” 

Related: Invalid EPA Bonuses Doled Out Like Candy 

Meanwhile, the decline in telecommunication skills across multiple agencies has already led to delays and cost overruns of 44 percent, the report said. 

The Office of Personnel Management is planning to address the issue by first working with the Chief Human Capital Officers Council to identify the weaknesses and propose ways to fix them OPM has previously made similar efforts to address the skills gap by using a data-driven approach to figure out which occupations struggle the must. In it’s last attempt, OPM set a goal of reducing the gap by 50 percent. However, the GAO said there is no clear basis to determine whether it was met. 

GAO recommended that going forward, OPM should create a schedule specifying when its database will be updated to include new staffing data needed to assess the overall skills gap within the federal government.

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