U.S. Geological Survey Manual
370.380.1 - Upward Mobility Program
OPR: Office of the Director/Office of Human Resources
1. Purpose. This chapter provides policy and guidance for managers, employees, and servicing personnel offices regarding the USGS Upward Mobility Program.
The USGS Upward Mobility Program is a unique training program that enables managers to provide career development and growth opportunities to underutilized or underdeveloped Department of Interior and/or USGS employees in positions that are at the GS-9 level or below (or equivalent wage grade) and have a career ladder of GS-10 or below (or equivalent wage grade).
Through the Upward Mobility Program, eligible employees apply for entry training positions. If selected, they are placed in the entry position and receive training specifically designed to qualify them for the target position at the completion of the training period. Upon successful completion of the training program, the employee is reassigned or promoted to the target position. If the target position has a career ladder, the employee may then be promoted non-competitively to the next grade in the career ladder when eligible up to the highest grade level of the career ladder.
The primary objectives of the Upward Mobility Program are:
2. Authority. This program is based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 (PL 92-261); Executive Order 11478; Title 5, Chapter 41 of the United States Code; 5 CFR 720; and the Department of the Interior Upward Mobility Training Agreement as set forth in Part 370 DM 380 of the Departmental Manual.
3. Effective Date. This chapter supersedes all other USGS policies, procedures, and guidance on the same subject and remains in effect until superseded.
Underutilized employees are those whose present education, training, and capabilities are not fully utilized in their current position. These employees meet all qualification requirements for the Upward Mobility Program entry position(s) for which they apply, including positive education requirements.
Underdeveloped employees are those whose talent and potential can be identified and developed through specialized training and work experience, thus enabling them to perform duties of a higher level than their current positions require. These employees require additional training and experience to qualify for the entry and target positions.
The entry position is the Upward Mobility Program opportunity for which the employee applies for and will be placed during the training period.
A bridge position is the position a trainee will be placed in if he/she does not meet the OPM positive education requirements for the entry/target positions. To use the bridge position option, the upward mobility training opportunity must lend itself to a bridge position. To be considered for a bridge position, there must be a reasonable likelihood that the applicant can obtain the necessary formal education during the training period to qualify for the target position upon completion of the Program. Therefore, a minimum level of coursework may be required for consideration for the bridge position.
For example, a Hydrologist opportunity lends itself to a bridge position of
Hydrologic Technician. The entry position will be advertised as both a Hydrologist
and a Hydrologic Technician.
The vacancy announcement may look like:
Entry Position: Hydrologist, GS-1315-5/7
Bridge Position: Hydrologic Technician, GS-1316-5/6/7
Target position: Hydrologist, GS-1315-7/9
Career Ladder: Hydrologist, GS-1315-12
Consideration for the Bridge Position: Applicants who do not meet the full positive education requirements for the entry position of Hydrologist, GS-1315-5/7, but possess at least 18 semester hours of the required coursework may be considered for the bridge position of Hydrologic Technician, GS-1316-5/6/7.
The target position is the position for which the trainee is developed and will be reassigned or promoted to upon successful completion of the training period.
The career ladder of the target position identifies the range of grades to which the employee may be promoted non-competitively after being placed in the target position.
The Servicing Personnel Offices (SPO) are responsible for:
Managers and Supervisors are responsible for:
The Office of Employee Development (OED) is responsible for:
Employees are responsible for: applying for Upward Mobility Program vacancies and, if selected, adhering to Program requirements as documented in the vacancy announcement and the Upward Mobility Training Plan.
6. Coverage. To be eligible, the applicant must:
7. Advertisement Process. Vacancy Announcements will include: (a) a brief description of the Upward Mobility Program; (b) the title, series, and grade of the entry position (and bridge position, if applicable), the target position, and the career ladder; and (c) the eligibility requirements.
For bridge positions, the announcement will state that if an applicant does not meet the positive education qualification requirements for the entry position, he/she may be considered for the bridge position. If applicable, the announcement will also state the minimum level of coursework to be considered for the bridge position.
8. Application Process. Employees may not be promoted into Upward Mobility Program positions. They must apply for reassignments or change to lower grades in order to be considered for Upward Mobility opportunities.
Through the Upward Mobility Program, employees are not required to relocate or sign mobility agreements. If an employee voluntarily chooses to apply for an opportunity outside his/her local commuting area, the provisions of the vacancy announcement apply.
9. Qualifications. For entry into the Upward Mobility Program, applicants need only meet the positive education and selective factor requirements that are specified in the vacancy announcement. This applies to both the entry position and the bridge position. They do not need to meet the complete OPM general and specialized experience qualification requirements. The training received through the Program will be tailored to help them meet the general and specialized experience requirements (or, in the case of a bridge position, the positive education requirements) needed to qualify for the target position at the end of the training period.
For purposes of qualifying for the target position, 1 month of training received while in the Upward Mobility Program may equal 2 months of experience.
10. Review and Referral Process. Resumes are reviewed by the SPO for eligibility. Applicants who meet the OPM qualification requirements for the entry position are considered to be underutilized employees. Applicants who do not meet the OPM qualification requirements are considered to be underdeveloped employees.
Eligible candidates are referred to the selection official for consideration. If a large number of applicants apply thus making distinguishing among applicants necessary, underutilized employees are rated as a group, underdeveloped employees are rated as a group, and the top scoring candidates of each group are referred separately. The SPO will work with managers on each upward mobility recruitment action to determine the cut-off score. No group is considered more or less qualified than the other group. The ratings are based on applicant responses to the Online Applicant Referral System questions included in the entry position vacancy announcement which are designed to measure an applicant's potential and ability to acquire the necessary skills.
11. Pay Retention. Employees who apply and are selected for an Upward Mobility Program opportunity at a lower grade level than the position they currently hold are entitled to pay retention if they are selected and their existing salary cannot be accommodated within the salary range of the lower grade. Upon completion or termination of the Program, pay retention continues until the employee is no longer eligible for pay retention.
12. Training Plan. Once a selection is made and before the employee can be placed in the Upward Mobility Program entry position, the servicing personnel specialist and an OED representative will work with the supervisor and the trainee to develop the Upward Mobility Program Training Plan. This plan must be completed within 30 days of selection. The Training Plan template* may be followed when developing the plan.
The Training Plan identifies the specific training and/or education the trainee needs to fully qualify for the target position at the end of the training period. It focuses on the differences between the qualifications the trainee brings to the Program and the qualifications needed to fully qualify for the target position. The trainee may participate in rotational training assignments in other offices and/or formal training courses either during work hours or after hours, depending on his/her developmental needs as indicated in the Training Plan.
The length of the Training Plan depends on the background of the trainee. The maximum length of the Training Plan is 2 years. However through consultation with the SPO, the training period may be extended in individual cases where special circumstances warrant a waiver (e.g., illness of the trainee, unavailability of critical training, etc.).
The Training Plan may be terminated in writing at any time before the end of the training period by the trainee or the supervisor.
13. Orientation Session. At the beginning of the trainee's Upward Mobility Program assignment, an orientation session will be held with the personnel specialist, OED representative, manager, and trainee to discuss issues such as information about the program, contacts, the organization in which the trainee will work, how the Upward Mobility Program position fits in the organization, the hours the trainee will work, the conditions of the Training Plan, expectations and performance evaluation criteria, and any other information applicable to the trainee's specific Upward Mobility Program assignment.
14. Evaluation Process. On a quarterly basis, the supervisor evaluates the trainee's performance, progress, and training and documents such on the performance plan or an attachment to the performance plan. The SPO will work with the supervisor to identify the criteria by which performance will be measured. The Training Plan will be linked to the performance plan to measure the critical elements necessary for successful performance. The trainee evaluates the training received and provides comments and constructive criticism on training still needed. The evaluations are provided to the SPO for review, follow up if necessary, and filing in the trainee's Upward Mobility Program file. USGS annual performance appraisal requirements apply to Upward Mobility Program trainees.
15. Advancement. If the Upward Mobility Program assignment and Training Plan provide for advancement opportunities, a trainee may be promoted while in the Program or upon conversion to the target position. Following OPM regulations, an employee may be promoted two times during a 52-week period, however only one promotion can be based on accelerated qualification and time-in-grade restrictions. In addition, while in the Program, trainees hired into bridge positions may be converted to the professional series once they meet the education requirements.
16. Completion/Termination of the Training Plan. The trainee must satisfactorily complete the training prescribed in the Training Plan to be placed in the target position. The supervisor will submit the final evaluation report to the SPO with a statement certifying whether the trainee successfully completed the Training Plan requirements.
Upon successful completion of the Program, the trainee may be reassigned or promoted to the target position provided he/she fully meets the OPM qualification requirements for the target position. At this point, the employee is no longer in the Upward Mobility Program. If the target position has a career ladder, the employee may then be promoted non-competitively to the next grade in the career ladder when eligible up to the highest grade level of the career ladder.
If a trainee does not satisfactorily complete the Program for any reason, those who were reassigned into the Program will be placed in a position equivalent in grade and tenure to the position held before selection into the Program. For those trainees who volunteered to take a change to a lower grade to participate in the Program, all efforts will be made to re-promote the trainee to a position equivalent in grade and tenure to the one held prior to entering the Program, if such a position is available. If an equivalent position is not available, the employee will be reassigned to a position at the lower grade.