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Federal Diary by Joe Davidson

Bill would require more training for government supervisors

Sen. Daniel K. Akaka says the government has fallen behind in providing worker training.
Sen. Daniel K. Akaka says the government has fallen behind in providing worker training. (Caleb Jones - AP)
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By Joe Davidson
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Supporting greater training for federal workers is as safe as advocating good grades for students.

Yet, until recently, there's been much more talk than action. During times of tight budgets, shortsighted number crunchers sometimes cut training programs first, only to wonder later why productivity, efficiency and employee morale fell.

There's been a relative flurry of activity on this front lately, including the Federal Supervisor Training Act, which was introduced by Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii). He says the need for training is great because it's been so lax in the past.

"We have failed to provide federal employees with the tools they need to be successful," Akaka says in a statement prepared for a hearing Thursday. "Agencies often cut employee training and development programs to stretch limited funding. Federal employees are left to execute their missions without the resources and support they need."

The bill would require agency heads to train supervisors in several areas, including:

-- Improving employee performance

-- Managing poor performers and dealing with hostile work environments

-- Encouraging fairness, equal opportunity and merit principles in the workplace

-- Working with unions and protecting employee rights.

Akaka, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee that deals with the federal workforce, called the hearing, which will feature supportive testimony on his bill from federal labor organizations.

The unions, however, are not happy with another issue on the subcommittee's agenda, the Federal Career Intern Program. Officers of the National Treasury Employees Union and the American Federation of Government Employees plan to tell the panel that the program has been used to abuse a system of fair competition that Uncle Sam likes to say is the hallmark of his hiring process. More on that tomorrow.

In addition to Akaka's bill, the Office of Personnel Management issued regulations in December that implement training provisions included in legislation approved five years earlier. (Perhaps there's a need for a course on prompt regulation writing). The OPM regs require supervisors to be trained within one year of their appointment and to be retrained at least once every three years. And last year's National Defense Authorization Act required training for Defense Department managers.

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