Nearly One-Quarter of 2015 Presidential Management Finalists Are Vets

"There's no other opportunity like" the PMF program, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said. "There's no other opportunity like" the PMF program, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said. Jamie Cotten/Labor Department

The latest crop of Presidential Management Fellow finalists includes 131 candidates who identified themselves as service veterans, slightly more than last year, according to statistics from the Office of Personnel Management.

The 2015 class of PMF finalists totals 600, with 508 traditional finalists and 92 candidates focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. OPM announced the group on March 26, and the finalists have until March 26, 2016, to land a two-year appointment. As of May 21, twenty finalists already have received appointments.

“PMFs are offered nearly 160 hours of classroom-based training, a Senior Executive Service mentor, at least one developmental opportunity at another office or agency, and the potential to convert to permanent employee status when they complete the program,” wrote Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta in a Sept. 29 blog post announcing the 2015 application process. “There’s no other opportunity like it.”

PMF candidates can apply for the traditional PMF fellowship, or the STEM track. Candidates go through a rigorous application process, which includes in-person interviews.

OPM received approximately 7,800 applicants for 2015. The extremely competitive PMF program, formerly known as the Presidential Management Intern program, gives current graduate and doctoral school students and recent degree recipients the opportunity to work for two years at a federal agency, earning the full pay and benefits of a General Schedule Grade 9, 11 or 12. Fellowship finalists are not guaranteed an appointment; however, once a finalist receives an appointment, he or she is usually offered a full-time position at the end of the two years. OPM works closely with agencies each year to get PMFs placed, but ultimately it is up to the agencies to determine their hiring and placement needs.

Seventy percent of last year’s PMF finalists secured two-year appointments at federal agencies; their deadline to do so was April 10, 2015. The 2014 class consisted of 609 finalists – 518 traditional and 91 STEM. Of that total, 103 finalists received veterans’ preference. The PMF class of 2014 fared better than the class of 2013, whose federal job prospects suffered as a result of sequestration, furloughs and a government shutdown. Forty-eight percent of the 2013 PMFs received agency appointments by their April 2014 deadline.

The PMF program is one component of the Pathways initiative, an effort that 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. Pathways includes three tracks: one for current students, another for recent graduates and one for PMFs. Participants are classified under Schedule D within the excepted service, and each program honors 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.

Some federal hiring managers and human resources specialists have become frustrated with Pathways, expressing confusion over how to apply the hiring rules accurately while still netting the best candidates. Good government groups and OPM are trying to educate agencies, universities and students about Pathways and dispel some misconceptions about it, ranging from when to apply vets’ preference to whether agencies can target specific academic institutions. 

Presidential Management Fellows, By the Numbers

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