The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) recommends that agencies recruit a strong science and technology workforce by creating a culture of inclusion and innovation, connecting the workforce to the agencies’ missions, offering competitive pay, and strengthening relationships between the workforce and other employees within the agencies.
The NSTC released a report Wednesday that acknowledges that workers ages 45 to 64 make up 60 percent of the Federal science and technology workforce, which means that many employees are reaching retirement age. This creates a strong need to recruit a new pool of workers.
“Public perception of civil service has declined, especially since the space race and Cold War eras,” wrote Afua Bruce, executive director of the NSTC; Chris Fall, assistant director for defense programs at the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Jayne Morrow, senior science policy adviser in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Materials Measurement Laboratory; in a blog post.
Salaries and workplace flexibility for Federal science and technology workforce employees are lacking to those of the private sector. Also, employees perceive the culture in private companies to be more “dynamic and vibrant” compared to the culture of the Federal government.
“Agencies should enable leaders to create a culture for inclusion in which employees’ skills are valued and rewarded,” wrote Bruce, Fall, and Morrow. “In addition, agencies should promote career flexibility and mobility by facilitating interagency exchange programs in which workers can enhance skill development.”
The Department of Health and Human Services is already excelling in this area through the use of its IDEA Lab. The IDEA Lab seeks to innovate and break down institutional barriers at the agency by identifying, testing, and validating new ideas.
The NSTC recommends that agencies incorporate technology professionals into their missions, seek feedback, and incentivize those who forward the agencies’ goals.
NASA’s Langley Research Center’s science and technology professionals drafted a strategic plan that aligns with the agency’s goals over time to ensure that certain skills are used at the appropriate time for the agency’s needs.
“Agencies should ensure that compensation flexibilities are used to enhance the Federal government’s ability to attract and retain top [science and technology] talent,” wrote Bruce, Fall, and Morrow. “Agencies can also convert staff in temporary positions to permanent Federal service.”
The Critical Position Pay Authority (CPPA), which Congress passed in 1990, ensures that Federal science and technology professionals be offered comparable pay to what they would receive from a private company. However, 71 percent of positions that take advantage of the CPPA are within the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The NSTC believes that more agencies should take advantage of this policy so the science and technology workforce could receive competitive pay.
Agency leaders should strengthen collaboration between science and technology professionals and human capital advisers. For example, the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology advises NIST on its organization, budget, programs, and employment strategies.
“The Federal government aims to attract a future [science and technology] workforce that has the tools and the skills necessary to achieve the Federal Government’s [science and technology] goals, contributing to the growth and prosperity of the nation,” wrote Bruce, Fall, and Morrow.