Management fellows seek agency assignments

The head of the Office of Personnel Management addressed hundreds of young people Wednesday in an event designed to recruit and retain talented public servants.

In a speech before graduate students selected as finalists for the Presidential Management Fellows program, OPM Director Linda Springer cited a need to recruit and retain talented workers in the federal government, especially as it faces a potential wave of retirements during the next decade.

The PMF program targets the best and brightest in graduate programs from many of the nation's top universities. The program provides students designated as finalists with a two-year fellowship that involves extensive classroom training and rotational assignments with various federal agencies.

Over the next two days, finalists will meet with agency officials to discuss potential opportunities. The program, formerly known as the Presidential Management Intern program, has its largest group of finalists this year, and Springer said there are plenty of spaces in agencies to accommodate them.

Springer said she felt compelled to join public service after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but was unsure about how to attain a career in federal service.

But by becoming finalists in the PMF program, students "have chosen an effective way" to break into the government, Springer said. "You've been able to get through that red tape."

Springer encouraged finalists to pick an agency that "really is in line with something [they] believe in," whether that is caring for the environment, ensuring government accountability or working for the nation's veterans.

"What you will be doing is important," Springer said. "What all of the 1.8 million people [who work for the federal government] do is important."

Springer noted a study OPM conducted last fall with the Gallup Organization to determine what the next generation of potential employees is seeking in a federal career. With the study, Gallup assessed the "brand recognition" of federal agencies as well as what interest an individual would have in working for that agency.

"We don't have a brand the same way Google has a brand," Springer said.

But she said every agency has "a very important mission whether or not it is well known to the general public."

Springer hopes students will seek careers in federal service that are above and beyond their two-year fellowship. "You know the posters that say 'Uncle Sam wants you?' Well, we want you," she said.

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