fedweek.com: cyber security reskilling Image: ra2 studio/Shutterstock.com

OPM has told agencies to use “a whole person approach” for assessing which current federal employees would be good candidates for retraining to fill high-demand cybersecurity jobs, taking into account “cognitive and interpersonal competencies, as well as technical cybersecurity related knowledge, skills, and abilities.”

The guidance follows a 2019 executive order on boosting the federal cybersecurity workforce which among other things told OPM issue guidance on identifying employees with potential to be reskilled for cybersecurity, a field where the government struggles to fill its available jobs.


In a memo, OPM said that agencies should consider: tests to assess abilities such as reasoning, perception, memory, verbal and mathematical ability and problem solving; structuring interviews to limit the discretion of the interviewer; assessments of personality attributes, attitudes, experiences, interests, skills and abilities; asking applicants how they would handle a hypothetical job challenge; personality tests of motivations, preferences and interests; and ratings of experience, education, and training.

Agencies should “incorporate one or more of these assessments into their personnel development programs,” OPM said, adding that the approach used should be tailored to the job and other circumstances.

Some of those methods already are in some use across agencies and they can be used in assessing outside candidates as well as current employees, it said.

The administration has made reskilling current employees a theme of the personnel aspects of its President’s Management Agenda, saying it will help fill agency needs while providing opportunities for employees who might want to change careers—or who might lose their jobs as the nature of work changes.

However, in one of the first initiatives, involving retraining a group of mid-career employees without IT backgrounds to qualify them for cybersecurity positions, the training qualified them only for entry-level type positions paying significantly less than they were currently making, creating a disincentive for them to move into such positions, the MSPB said recently.

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