Federal Manager's Daily Report

The fees that OPM charges to agencies for training and candidate assessment programs is affecting agency hiring programs, MSPB says in a new publication.

MSPB noted that HR staff responsible for carrying out competitive examining responsibilities must pass an initial assessment and then later be recertified on their knowledge of hiring concepts, rules, and procedures. To help them prepare, OPM offers a three-day training course which “is not mandatory, but OPM has found that it vastly improves practitioners’ chances of passing the assessment.”

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However, many HR practitioners do not take the training, which MSPB called “relatively expensive, with the fiscal year 2020 cost listed at $1,142 per participant, plus the additional $200 fee per practitioner to take the assessment.”

“Having a well-prepared HR workforce is critical to the federal government’s ability to maintain a high-quality workforce. OPM’s delegated examining certification program is an important piece to that preparation. It would be even more helpful if OPM could explore alternatives to fee-based training and if agency leadership would make HR staff training a priority,” it said.

The publication also noted that under the recent executive order on hiring, agencies are to rely more on skills-based assessments rather than educational credentials. MSPB said its research has shown, though, that agencies “often use assessments that are not the best predictors of performance because developing good assessments takes expertise and funding many agencies do not have.”

“OPM’s USA Hire Program has validated assessments for a multitude of Federal occupations, but they are only available on a reimbursable basis, making them relatively expensive for some agencies. Given the administration’s push to improve hiring, this is an ideal time for OPM and Congress to explore how to make assessments more accessible to agencies,” it said.

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