Businessman jumping a gapMission-critical skills gaps both within federal agencies and across the federal workforce pose a high risk to the nation because they impede the government from cost-effectively serving the public and achieving results. The GAO report, “OPM and Agencies Need to Strengthen Efforts to Identify and Close Mission-Critical Skills Gaps” reviews progress OPM has made in closing these government-wide skills gaps.

GAO reviewed documentation; interviewed OPM officials; and reviewed the implementation of HRstat meetings at Commerce, DOE, and USAID, to assess: 

  • lessons learned from initial efforts to close critical skills gaps and how they can inform future initiatives
  • what progress OPM has made in building a predictive capacity to identify future mission-critical skills gaps
  • how OPM and agencies are using HRstat to identify and close skills gaps. 

While reviewing several examples of efforts to close gaps, GAO uncovered potential future gaps. For example, the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) Council Working Group (Working Group) identified skills gaps in six government-wide occupations, such as cybersecurity and auditors. In 2015, OPM and the CHCO Council plan to identify and address a new set of government-wide skills gaps. It will be important that key lessons learned from the initial efforts to identify skills gaps inform this next round of work, including the need to:

  • use a data-driven approach early in the process
  • prioritize occupations using criteria that consider programmatic impact
  • consult with subject matter experts and other stakeholders prior to the identification of skills gaps in occupations. 

Key features of OPM's efforts to predict emerging skills gaps are in the early planning stages. GAO has previously reported that further progress in closing skills gaps will depend on, among other things, the extent to which OPM develops a capacity to predict emerging skills gaps beyond those areas already identified. A re-named interagency group, known as the Federal Agency Skills Team, plans to strengthen the methodology used to identify emerging skills gaps. 

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Finally, OPM and selected agencies that GAO reviewed could improve efforts to address skills gaps by strengthening their use of quarterly data-driven reviews, known as HRstat meetings. Specifically, the metrics used by the selected agencies during their HRstat meetings vary from agency to agency, making it difficult for OPM to assess agencies' progress in closing skills gaps government-wide. OPM should work with the CHCO Council to develop a core set of HRstat metrics that all agencies use so that OPM may have the ability to analyze skills gap data across the government. 

For GAO’s recommendations on how to manage these efforts, read the full report