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STEM

Photo of the HBCU forum held at OPM

Building deeper ties with our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBU) and bolstering employee training were the key themes of events that the Office of Personnel Management’s Blacks In Government (BIG) chapter and the agency’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) sponsored during African American History Month.

BIG and ODI partnered to host a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) forum that brought together representatives from Claflin University, Bowie State University, Hampton University, Howard University, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T, University of the District of Columbia, the Association of Public & Land Grant University, and Prince George’s Community College. They were joined by representatives of Federal agencies and the business community.

The purpose of the HBCU forum was to have a robust discussion and to establish and sustain relationships with colleges and universities, Federal agencies, and other stakeholders in order to create a pipeline of talented students and alumni that will result in:

  • High school and college students knowing about and attending institutions of higher learning whose curriculum will prepare them to apply for the mission critical occupations offered by the Federal government;
  • College students nearing graduation looking to the Federal Government and government contractors as career destinations.
  • Federal agencies and the business community being more familiar and better understanding the mission of HBCUs, and be better prepared to recruit from these institutions.
  • Creating an environment for young college graduates and alumni who become Federal employees to have opportunities for professional growth and move into leadership positions;
  • Fostering genuine dialogue between the universities, the Federal Government, and other stakeholders to improve the kind of collaboration and engagement that will enhance the Federal Government’s continued efforts towards diversity and inclusion at all levels of Federal service.

OPM’s Acting Director Beth Cobert said at the forum that “the contributions that graduates from historically black colleges make to the Federal workforce across the country are extremely important. OPM is proud of the relationships we have built with many of you in this room.” She also pointed out that HBCU’s are some of the biggest producers of black undergraduate degrees in STEM fields, an area where many Federal agencies are in need of talented and motivated employees.

Director Cobert also challenged the attendees to take the opportunity to discuss and collaborate on ways OPM could work with the universities to enhance diversity and inclusion within the Federal and private sector. Also during African American History Month, representatives from Howard University provided executive leadership training to OPM BIG members and other agency employees.

The “Leadership in Action Seminar” covered leadership and executive communications, principles in group and cross cultural communications, decision-making, and team building. The training was conducted by Dr. Kim Wells, Executive Director of Executive Education at Howard University’s School of Business and Retired Air Force General Frank Anderson.

The interactive training discussed how easy it is to fall into making hiring and promotion decisions based on conscious or unconscious biases that can impact an organization or company having a diverse and inclusive employment culture.

The events BIG organized during this year’s African American History Month are just the beginning. We will continue to promote collaboration and partnerships with representatives from our nation’s HBCUs, all with the goal of continuing to create a diverse and inclusive environment in the Federal workplace.


Women's History Month graphic with photos of past and present women who've served in government which reads: Women's History Month 2016, Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.

As we begin a month-long commemoration of National Women’s History Month, I’m glad that this year’s theme honors women in public service. It’s a perfect time for us to reflect on the accomplishments of women in government who succeeded, often against great odds. It’s also the right time to recommit ourselves to encouraging the next generation of women leaders

The National Women’s History Project has named 15 women who it says “have shaped America’s history and its future through their public service and government leadership.” Included in this accomplished group are four women who dedicated their lives to Federal service:

  • Sonia Pressman Fuentes, co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the first woman attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 
  • Judy Hart, who in her 27-year career with the National Parks Service became the founding superintendent of the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y. and of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Park in Richmond, Calif., 
  • Oveta Culp Hobby, the first commanding officer of Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II and the first Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, now the Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Nancy Grace Roman, an astronomer, was the first woman executive at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She was known as the “Mother of Hubble” for her contributions to the establishment of the Hubble Space Telescope.

From young women in high school and college studying such critical skills as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) to women in mid-career, it’s important that government reach out, as part of its overall recruitment efforts, and encourage them to join in serving the American people. OPM is committed to helping agencies find and develop the talent to follow in the footsteps of the distinguished leaders we honor this month.

We are working with agencies to identify and remove any barriers that managers may face in recruiting the diverse talent they need, including women. Through OPM initiatives like Executive Women in Motion, we are bringing aspiring women leaders together with mentors who can help them and encourage them to become members of the Senior Executive Service.

OPM issues guidance to agencies to help promote the policies that help women – and men – balance the needs of their families and the responsibilities of their jobs. This includes such workplace flexibilities as telework and alternative work schedules.

OPM also provides data on the continued narrowing of the pay gap in the Federal workforce. In 1992, Federal women in white-collar jobs made 70-cents on the dollar compared to men. The most recent data we have show that by 2012 that number was 87 cents. Women in Federal leadership positions are doing even better. In 2012, these women were paid 99.2 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.

Working with the Department of Justice, OPM is also helping agencies develop strategies and training to increase awareness of and help colleagues support victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, and Stalking.

As the President said in his proclamation recognizing March as Women’s History Month, “We have come far, but there is still far to go in shattering the glass ceiling that holds women back. This month, as we reflect on the marks made by women throughout history, let us uphold the responsibility that falls on all of us -- regardless of gender -- and fight for equal opportunity for our daughters as well as our sons.”

OPM, like other agencies across government, will set aside time this month to celebrate the achievements of women in Federal service. I want to thank all Federal employees for the work they do every day to fulfill their missions to serve the American people.


On Wednesday, the Indian Treaty Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building became a showcase for the Office of Personnel Management’s initiative to attract the best talent in science, technology engineering and math to Federal service.

This “Datapalooza” was part of a celebration of the incredible work Federal STEM employees do now, and it was also a look to the future as we work to fulfill the President’s vision of growing a diverse, engaged and talented STEM workforce for the future.

Our team leaders here at OPM have forged an amazing partnership with Federal employees from across government and from the private sector. The idea was to find ways to use OPM’s valuable data to understand our current STEM workforce and to provide the tools and resources managers need to help them attract and recruit new STEM talent.

This work is so exciting and so important. Let me tell you about just a couple of the projects.

Ray Parr, OPM’s data guru in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion, developed a heat map that shows where our STEM applicants are coming from. His map showed us that the four states contributing the most applicants for Federal STEM jobs are Maryland, Virginia, California and Texas. And, his team produced an applicant dashboard that provides insights into the interests and experiences of job applicants.

At another demonstration, Gary Lukowski, who manages our Data Analysis Group, enhanced the rich data from OPM’s Fedscope with charts and graphs to illustrate the relationships between STEM employees and their agencies. This kind of information will help hiring managers predict trends in the Federal STEM workforce.

We at OPM know that the Federal government is in competition with the private, non-profit and academic sectors for key STEM personnel. One way that OPM, OMB and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are working together to close skills gaps is to remind agencies about some pay flexibilities that can help attract the best talent.

As we say in the Critical Position Pay Authority Memorandum for Chief Human Capital Officer, the critical position pay authority is a potentially underutilized flexibility that can support our efforts. We are encouraging agencies with mission critical STEM positions to better educate agency staff about this opportunity.

Go to the Pay and Leave Flexibilities for Recruitment and Retention Fact Sheet and the Students, Recent Graduates, and Pathways Fact Sheet for additional information on applying to and recruiting for Federal STEM positions.

This exciting STEM event was just the beginning. I am committed to making sure that together with our partners across government, OPM will continue to innovate and expand the tools and resources we provide agencies so they can bring on board the best talent possible to serve the American people.

Director Arculeta looks at one of the projects on display on a large screen on the wall with data displayed during STEM Day. She is surrounded by a large group of approximately 10 people all facing toward the screen.

As I’ve begun to look at the results of the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, I’m happy to report that there are more than 336,000 people under the age of 33 in our workforce and most of them say they are satisfied with their jobs. They also strongly believe that the work they do is important and that they have real opportunities to improve their skills.

I am not surprised. I have traveled around the country meeting with young Federal workers, veterans and college students. They all have something in common: They are looking for work that is purpose-driven and where they feel they can make a difference. And the new FEVS survey results show many millennials are finding just that in Federal service.

The results have encouraged me to make sure that we at OPM redouble our efforts to attract, develop and retain these talented young people. We are doing that in several ways: OPM is working hard on a new initiative called REDI to Connect. REDI stands for recruitment, engagement, diversity and inclusion.

A key feature of this initiative includes OPM’s work to enhance our Pathways programs, which provide internships to students in school and to recent college graduates. Both the Pathways program and our Presidential Management Fellows program are great ways for millennials to try out Federal service to see if it’s a good fit for them.

As part of REDI, OPM is also expanding the use of social media so that we can reach millennials via the platforms that they use in their job searches. And we’re reaching out to the young users of our main job portal – USAJOBS – to see how we can make is more user-friendly.

I am so gratified to see that our Federal millennials have opportunity with us in government. And I am taking seriously the areas where the data shows we can do better.

Thank you to all in our Federal family who responded to this important survey. Stay tuned for more results in the coming weeks.

Image of thought bubble with cartoon people. Next to it are the words Millennials Finding Opportunity in Federal Service


Last week, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) co-hosted the first ever Data Jam focused on jobs, labor & skills.

Closing the skills gap and especially empowering the Federal Science Technology
Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce is key in our efforts to deliver on the core mission of OPM: to recruit, train and retain a world class workforce for the 21st Century.

This event at the White House was a way to bring together innovators, entrepreneurs and experts in technology to brainstorm new uses of data as another tool in our tool kit for this effort.


The number of Federal jobs that rely on STEM talent is amazing. More than 300,000 people comprise the Federal STEM workforce nationwide– from scientists researching cancer cures at the National Institutes of Health to astronauts putting satellites into space at NASA to web developers helping people access mortgage information at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

 These STEM workers are vital to the Federal government’s mission and OPM is determined to work with agencies to help them better recruit, train, and retain such talented professionals.  And its OPM’s responsibility to find innovative ways to better use the key personnel and applicant data that we guard even as we ensure the integrity and security of this information.

That’s where this Data Jam and future meetings like it comes in. The first brainstorming session focused on six key issues:

  • Identifying skills & talent in real-time
  • Optimizing quality of work produced
  • Tracking flow into, through, and out of various career paths
  • Employee engagement and its impacts
  • Projecting future STEM needs
  • Diversity of the STEM workforce

And the Data Jam elicited some exciting proposed solutions – from data visualizations to online tools to skills marketplaces. The participants committed to building some prototypes of these innovative solutions. We want to partner with entrepreneurs and innovators to develop tools that can ensure that the American people have a Federal STEM workforce that is more diverse, more capable, and more engaged than ever before.  

Data Jam was only the first step. Later this year OPM and OSTP, in collaboration with other Federal agencies, will showcase some of the innovative solutions raised at Data Jam at the first Jobs, Labor & Skills Datapalooza.

We want to hear from everyone who has an idea of how to better use open data to help us grow and expand the Federal STEM workforce. This is a goal we can achieve together.


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