Relationships key to attracting students to federal service

Federal agencies must actively build relationships with students to attract them to government jobs, officials said on Tuesday.

During a Senate subcommittee hearing, federal human capital leaders told lawmakers that government must make jobs relevant to student needs, boost outreach to university faculty and engage supervisors in recruiting young hires. Simply posting positions descriptions to USAJobs will not attract top talent, they said.

"Bringing the best and the brightest means reaching beyond boundaries," Energy Department Chief Human Capital Officer Michael Kane told the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Management. "We needed to address fact that [hiring] reform gave students a wider window of possibilities, but they needed help figuring out how that translated into their situations."

Energy has a student ambassador program that encourages former interns to market the department's mission and programs on their college campuses. The program boosts communication with faculty members who can identify top talent for agency jobs, Kane said, adding it is an "excellent way to complement the electronic world we live in."

One challenge is the limited budget available to send recruiters to university job fairs, said Government Accountability Office CHCO Carolyn Taylor. To continue building relationships with students and professors, GAO will be doing more virtual information sharing and asking agency executives to stay in touch with campus leaders, she said.

Officials also said the new Pathways Program, created in December 2010, which streamlines hiring for students and recent graduates, has potential to bring quality hires into federal service. According to Office of Personnel Management Deputy Director Christine Griffin, OPM is ready to release draft regulations on the Pathways Program for public comment and will be completing that step this summer. Additional oversight will prevent the new process from turning into the controversial Federal Career Intern Program, she said.

"We will be seeking to have progress reviews and updates on how the program is going on a continuous basis so we never find ourselves in that situation again," she said.

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