White House Adopts Skills-first Hiring for Tech

May 24, 2024

The White House Office of the National Cyber Director announced in April the plan to adopt a skills-based hiring protocol for technical employees. This new protocol removes hiring obstacles for job seekers who possess skills but lack degrees. The hope is that this will set a trend and have a trickle-down effect on the private sector. 

The Biden-Harris Administration will lead by example and will overhaul the federal hiring process to become fully skills-based for an entire series of technical employees. The job series of IT workers in the federal workforce is called the “2210 series.” It accounts for nearly 100,000 current federal employees working in technical positions for the US government. 

Skills-based Hiring is a Key Priority

According to a White House press release, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Deputy Director, Rob Shriver, said, “Skills-based hiring is a key priority, particularly with the emergence of new technologies like AI and machine learning. Americans with the right skills should have the chance to join the federal workforce, regardless of how they gained those skills.” 

This new strategy for defining work roles and acquiring technical talent is good news for people already working in technology in the private sector. They may have learned technical skills on the job but might not have the degrees or certifications to back it up. Now they can effectively compete for federal jobs against other applicants with such pedigrees.  

However, along with a diploma, fresh college graduates must highlight skills in their job hunt since the degree itself might lose some of the clout that it once had. Skills should be listed and demonstrated in resumes, job applications, interviews, and in digital profiles such as LinkedIn, personal websites and online portfolios. Students should be able to cite examples of how these skills were demonstrated during college, for example in team projects, hands-on exercises, capstone projects and internships. 

How To Evaluate for Technical Skill

But exactly how does a hiring manager evaluate job candidates for skill? And how can a person determine if those skills should override or supersede a degree? This is an HR problem. It’s also an HR problem to define new job roles as rapidly as technology evolves and gets adopted. 

Enter the Chief Human Capital Officers Council (CHCO Council). This division of the US government is the principal interagency forum for advising and coordinating human resources activities across federal organizations. 

On April 29, 2024, the CHCO published a Skills-Based Hiring Guidance and Competency Model for Artificial Intelligence Work. This 24-page document helps agencies “shift towards a skills-centric paradigm that emphasizes practical skills over educational pedigrees... " This skills-first approach ensures that “the Federal workforce can readily adapt to the changing landscape and integrate innovative skills that may not yet be captured in traditional education or certification frameworks.”  

If this skills-first hiring framework trickles down to the private sector, colleges should immediately begin planning to train for these. For example, some of the technical and general competencies listed are: 

  • Data Visualization
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Data Extraction and Transformation
  • Testing and Validation
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Integrity or Honesty
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Creativity and Innovation

Does your curriculum include these skills? 

Are you helping students to highlight these skills in the job hunt?

How to Define an AI Work Role

Also on April 29, 2024, the OPM published a Memorandum for Chief Human Capital Officers on the topic of artificial intelligence classification and talent acquisition. It helps hiring managers comply with the AI in Government Act of 2020. This 68-page document identifies key skills and competencies needed by workers who use AI in their jobs.  

The memorandum acknowledges that AI work is multi-faceted and spans many different types of work roles. Therefore, depending on the amount of AI work that a person does, their job title may include AI as a parenthetical addendum, or the entire job role may be classified as an AI role. The memorandum provides details about how to classify these roles, how to determine pay scale, and how to acquire talent. The OPM actively seeks feedback on this memorandum which will shape the development of official policy. 

For more information about how the government defines other information technology roles like cybersecurity and software engineering, please see the Department of Defense Cyber Workforce Framework at this link

Man, thinking and examining a computer screen.