Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced a bill to extend a Trump administration program to reskill federal workers.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced a bill to extend a Trump administration program to reskill federal workers. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Senate Panel Advances Measures to Reskill Feds, Ban Their TikTok Use

OPM would oversee an agency-led effort to get federal workers into new jobs.

A Senate committee on Wednesday advanced a measure to grow initiatives at federal agencies to teach employees new trades, looking to continue an effort first launched under the Trump administration. 

The Facilitating Federal Employee Reskilling Act (S. 1330) would task the Office of Personnel Management with overseeing programs across the government aimed at developing skills that would qualify employees for new jobs. At the end of their training, employees could return to their old jobs or transfer to new positions at the same grade that use their new skills. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the measure unanimously.  

Under President Trump, the White House launched a Federal Reskilling Academy in 2018. While the program under that initiative cultivated significant interest, it failed to lead to new jobs for participants. The Trump administration focused its efforts on developing employees to work in cybersecurity positions, which agencies have long struggled to fill. Employees conducting work primed for automation would be best positioned to learn the new skills, officials said at the time. 

Under the bill, introduced by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., OPM would report annually for five years on the use of the program at each agency, including the number of participants, the number of new job placements and an analysis of the program's effectiveness. OPM would be tasked with overseeing the reskilling program at each agency and creating regulations to set them up. 

“Empowering Arizona’s federal employees to pursue high-demand training ensures a more effective federal government that better serves Arizonans,” Sinema said.

The Senate committee on Wednesday also passed the 2021 No TikTok on Government Devices Act (S. 1143), introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. The bill would prevent any federal government employees from accessing the social media application on a government-issued device, with exceptions for those engaged in cybersecurity research. The Trump administration previously sought to crack down on the platform, which is owned by a Chinese company, over concerns it leaves American users’ data vulnerable.

In a similar vein, the panel passed several measures aimed at further ensuring federal agencies produce and procure goods made in America. It also approved a bill to establish a council to secure federal research, which Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said has been left vulnerable to influence and manipulation by the Chinese government. The Senate is expected to soon consider a measure to give the National Science Foundation a $100 billion funding boost over the next five years to better compete with Chinese research and development of new technology. Portman said he would not support that measure unless the enhanced security provision was included.