OPM: Temp STEM posts should stretch to 10-year terms

The Office of Personnel Management has proposed a new rule that, in some instances, would permit agencies to hire new temp employees to dramatically longer terms. 
The new rule would allow agencies to hire prospects into scientific and technical roles—as well as certain others—for up to 10 years. That’s far longer than the current limit of four years.

The rule also would permit extensions for those hired initially for shorter terms. 

“The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is proposing rules that would allow agencies to make term appointments in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) occupations,” the proposed rule states. “[These are] positions needed to stand-up, operate, and close-out time-limited organizations which have a specific statutory appropriation; and time-limited projects which have been funded through specific appropriation; for up to 10 years. The proposal’s stated aim is to allow much greater flexibility in temporary hires, in order to attract and recruit more qualified applicants—especially those at early- or mid-career, who may be interested in federal work only on a project-by-project basis. Many technical projects last more than four but less than 10 years.

OPM is proposing this rule to provide agencies with greater flexibility to staff foreseeably long-term projects of a STEM nature when the need for the work is not permanent, and other time-limited work when authorized by specific funding by Congress,” as the rule puts it.

In addition to making the hiring and retaining process for temporary positions far easier for agencies—and more attractive to those interested in medium-term federal employment—OPM offers additional support. A study cited by OPM in support of the rule found that “the pace of technological change is driving a STEM skills gap” in the federal government not just because of insufficient recruiting generally, but specifically inadequate recruiting of those with the most current specialized skills. 

“We use the [study] data to calculate a systematic measure of job skill change, and show that skill demands in STEM occupations have changed especially quickly,” the proposed rule announcement states.&lduo;The faster rate of change in STEM is driven both by more rapid obsolescence of old skills and by faster adoption of new skills.”
Another hook to come work for federal agencies: such short-term feds would be eligible for the usual health insurance, life insurance and participation in the Thrift Savings Plan.

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