OPM identifies over 50 skill sets to look for in federal AI workers

New OPM guidance details skill areas needed to fill AI-centric jobs in the federal government.

New OPM guidance details skill areas needed to fill AI-centric jobs in the federal government. Bloom Productions / Getty Images

The guidance fulfills a requirement from the AI in Government Act of 2020 that asks how best to deploy and utilize AI and ML technologies in government. 

The Office of Personnel Management released guidance Thursday on how government agencies can use and implement provisions outlined in the AI in Government Act of 2020, focused particularly on the workforce needs to support such advanced technology.

Issued as part of requirements outlined by the act itself––the guidance identifies skill areas required for government job roles in the AI arena. OPM officials first conducted a workplace survey featuring focus groups to identify exactly how AI was being utilized at the federal level.

A total of 58 specific skill sets — including technical competencies and general competencies — were identified by OPM and may be used by agencies “as supported by a job analysis for recruitment, selection and hiring.” 

Some of the competency areas the OPM document spotlights include accountability, attention to detail, organizational awareness, strategic thinking, technology awareness, written communication and mathematical reasoning. 

More technical skill descriptions, such as application development, data analysis and modeling and simulation were included alongside more qualitative skills like emotional intelligence, communication, reading, political savvy and supporting diversity. 

The combination of these skill sets speaks to the federal government’s broader strategy to employ a socio-technical approach in its deployment and development of emerging technologies like AI. 

Following the publication of formal guidance, OPM’s next steps for further action on AI will include issuing a formal framework to incorporate these identified competencies into recruitment and hiring processes.

Developing an interpretive classification policy guidance for AI is also a future task for complete compliance with the 2020 act.