OPM courts interns, recent grads

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The Office of Personnel Management is ramping up its efforts this fall to attract interns and recent graduates to government service.

The agency has posted draft guidelines for hiring interns into the Pathways Programs and will accept applications for the prestigious Presidential Management Fellows program from Nov. 5 to Nov. 19.

Agencies must complete a memorandum of understanding with OPM to participate in Pathways; so far, OPM has 14 such agreements with agencies, according to Kimberly Holden, deputy associate director for recruitment and hiring at OPM. “As with any new program, there always are going to be challenges,” Holden said in an interview with Government Executive. “We are working daily with agencies.”

Holden said agencies are grappling with how to comply with public notice requirements and post job opportunities in a way that simplifies the application process and helps candidates track the status of their applications. Currently, there are fewer than 50 postings for internships and recent graduate jobs on USAJobs.gov, but they vary across departments and disciplines. For example, NASA is looking for candidates with an advanced degree in engineering for internships at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, while the Census Bureau is seeking recent graduates to fill IT specialist positions.

Interested applicants should watch the six-minute YouTube tutorial from OPM on USAJobs.gov to most effectively search for openings. Tip: Type “internship” or “recent graduate” in the What box and leave the Where box empty.

Pathways grew out of a 2010 executive order directing agencies to make it easier for students and recent grads to pursue careers in the federal government. The new program includes three tracks: for current students, recent graduates and Presidential Management Fellows. Participants will be classified under a new Schedule D within the excepted service and every program will honor veterans' preference. Excepted service positions are designed to streamline the hiring process and have different evaluation criteria from the competitive service, in which applicants compete for jobs under the merit system. The PMF program in particular is more competitive than it used to be. “The major difference is in the assessment process,” Holden said. Around 10,000 candidates are expected to apply; 600 to 1,000 will be accepted, according to agency estimates.

The revamped intern and recent graduate pipeline, particularly the track for recent graduates, is designed to streamline the programs and make them more transparent. Many unions and other observers criticized the controversial and now-defunct Federal Career Intern Program, which some agencies used to circumvent the traditional federal hiring process.

Holden said OPM has reached out to postsecondary schools nationwide to promote Pathways and public service. “Colleges and universities are begging us to come and meet with them to educate them,” she said.

The success of Pathways likely won’t be known for at least another year. Agencies have to report to OPM on their results as well as the following year’s anticipated workforce needs.

(Image via hxdbzxy/Shutterstock.com)

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