OPM employee pitches winning idea in federal contest

A 29-year-old with the Office of Personnel Management in Denver on Wednesday won the first annual contest to improve federal government with an idea to electronically match applicants to available government jobs.

Robyn Dingledine was the big winner at FedPitch 2008, an event designed to inspire better workforce management by soliciting ideas from federal employees and students across the country, particularly in the 18- to 29-year-old age group. The eight-year OPM business development coordinator will attend a dinner with judges and key federal employees to strategize ways to implement her idea. The competition was part of Public Service Recognition Week and was sponsored in part by 13L, a group of midcareer federal employees.

Dingledine was one of 16 contestants who delivered a two-minute pitch to a live audience, à la American Idol. She proposed creating an online career quiz that can be posted on OPM's USAJOBS Web site and pairs an applicant's employment history and interests with available government jobs. Dingledine said her own job inspired the idea, and that the quiz was based on the type of questions she has asked applicants interested in working for the government.

"I was thinking of all of those kinds of questions that I ask and I thought, 'What if we made something electronic that would do that so that everyone would get the benefit?' Technology could help us," said Dingledine.

"Robyn's idea was a unique approach to recruiting young people, would not be highly divisive, and [would be] something that would be embraced by agencies and OPM alike," said Kate Hudson Walker, a judge and president of Young Government Leaders, a co-sponsor of the competition. Walker noted that many of the other pitches had been suggested before, were being implemented already, or would need substantial capital and support to put in place.

FedPitch was created to "attract and recruit people to federal public service" to find new approaches for retaining, motivating and rewarding government workers, said event organizer and founder of 13L, Scott Derrick. The contest, which drew 50 submissions nationwide, represented a range of age, experience and ideas from the private sector and the federal workforce.

Submissions included public awareness campaigns to improve recruitment into the federal civil service, new technology tools to enhance recruiting, hiring, collaboration and training, and a virtual reality training program that federal employees could use to rehearse disaster management scenarios.

For example, one pitch featured contestant Jane Petkofskya, a career federal employee with the Transportation Security Administration and an actress who in the past has taken paid leave to travel to Ireland to perform. She said she wanted more time to pursue her acting, so she pitched a governmentwide sabbatical program for high-performing federal employees to pursue outside interests.

The contest's organizers said many of the pitches might attract attention and end up being implemented.

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