The Office of Personnel Management is encouraging agencies to maintain and build a workforce of employees who specialize in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by offering them higher pay.

In a recent memo, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said that federal agencies have the authority to “provide additional direct compensation in certain circumstances” to support recruiting and retaining of STEM workers.

An accompanying fact sheet from the OPM goes on to describe the manner in which agencies can grant a higher pay rate for a position. For example, the critical pay rate can be set anywhere between the normal rate for that job and that of Level 2 of the executive schedule, or $181,500.

“In order to apply the critical position pay authority, the position(s) must require an extremely high level of expertise in a scientific, technical, professional, or administrative field that is critical to the successful accomplishment of an important agency mission,” the fact sheet explains.

The memo came on the heels of several data tools that were launched to discern where STEM workers already are in the government and how the OPM can bolster recruitment.

“We at OPM know that the Federal government is in competition with the private, non-profit and academic sectors for key STEM personnel,” Archuleta wrote in a blog post. “One way that OPM, OMB and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are working together to close skills gaps is to remind agencies about some pay flexibilities that can help attract the best talent.”

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