President Biden’s budget proposal repeats often-stated concerns about federal agencies’ ability to fill current and future vacancies, while previewing his administration’s approach.
The budget also again points to the need to replace upcoming retirements, noting that almost 30 percent of federal employees are above age 55. In contrast, only 8 percent are younger than age 30—compared with 23 percent in the private sector—and “every single agency has fewer employees younger than 30 today than they had in 2010.”
One reason, it suggests, is that paid internships dropped from more than 60,000 in that year to about 4,000 in 2020, restricting that potential pipeline of employees, because of restrictions on such programs during that time. That has been especially notable in IT positions, it says, where the government has well documented problems in hiring and where 16 percent of employees are over age 60 compared with only 3 percent under 30.
“The budget recommends that agencies identify barriers and challenges to hiring interns, ensure internships are included in workforce planning, and directs them to identify options to increase internship opportunities,” it says. Further, OPM “intends to reinvigorate the existing Pathways Programs for student trainees and recent graduates.
“OPM is compiling and developing comprehensive guidance for agencies on hiring flexibilities and competitive hiring best practices to facilitate a talent surge into government. This work includes developing regulations to make it easier to bring back former employees by allowing agencies to rehire at a grade commensurate with the experience achieved while working outside of government, rather than limiting such employees to the grade level where they were when they left,” it adds.
The budget also requires Chief Human Capital Officers Act agencies—the two dozen Cabinet departments and largest independent agencies—to “create and fund talent teams at the component level and to participate in or contribute to, as allowable, a centralized, government-wide hiring assessment support team to improve hiring outcomes for critical positions, including more technical or hard-to-fill positions, in particular.”