OPM: Tech Workers Need to Mentor Young People

STEM skills are among the most the most in-demand by the federal government.

The Office of Personnel Management is calling on federal technology workers to use approved office time and flexible work schedules to mentor young students.

In a letter to agency chief human capital officers on Tuesday, OPM Director John Berry encouraged agencies to allow employees who work in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to use existing workplace flexibilities to participate in volunteer service.

Specifically, the letter calls for more than 200,000 federal professionals in STEM fields to identify and pursue volunteer activities in their communities, keeping in mind that they should be inclusive of all segments of society, including women and girls.

“Through direct involvement in their local communities, federal employees help build a STEM talent pipeline for future recruitment into federal service,” Berry wrote. “I encourage and support continuing this tradition.”

Each agency should review the extent to which alternative work schedules are authorized and used as well as the policies for granting employees annual leave, leave without pay, credit hours under flexible work schedules and compensatory time off to perform STEM-related volunteer service. Agencies also may consider granting a limited amount of excused absence, Berry wrote.

STEM skills are among the most in-demand by the federal government, with STEM included as a functional area in OPM’s skills gap closure initiative, one of the cross agency priority goals identified on performance.gov, Berry noted. OPM is partnering with the White House, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council to develop a strategy to address STEM skills gaps in the federal workforce.

“The President has challenged us to promote creative ways to engage young people in the STEM fields including through science festivals, robotics competitions, job shadowing and mentoring to encourage young people to create, build, and invent -- to be makers of things, not just consumers of things,” Berry wrote.