Outside Groups Launch Initiative to Find and Pay Interns for Federal Agencies
Students will receive $4,000 stipend and work for one summer.
Two outside groups are joining forces to organize and finance an internship program for federal agencies, looking to create a new pipeline for young people to enter the civil service.
The Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the effectiveness of federal government, is administering the Future Leaders in Public Service Internship program, while Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic group, will fund it. The program will start with 400 interns for the departments of Commerce and Transportation equally divided over the 2022 and 2023 summers.
The positions will go to college and graduate school students and pay a $4,000 stipend. They will last 10-12 weeks and be located primarily in the Washington area, though some may have flexibility due to agencies’ current telework statuses. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and have a grade point average of at least 3.0.
The Partnership has long advocated for a more robust commitment to guiding young people into the federal government. According to data released by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., at a recent hearing he chaired on the future of the federal workforce, the federal government had 60,000 paid interns in 2010. In 2020, that figure had dropped to just 4,000. Just 7% of the federal workforce is younger than 30 years old, compared to about 25% of the entire U.S. workforce.
“Our government needs new skills, perspectives and innovative approaches to confront our country's challenges, but it is struggling to recruit young talent,” said Max Stier, the Partnership’s president and CEO. “It is essential that we encourage a broader interest in public service careers, harness the immense potential of a new generation to serve their country and facilitate the growth and learning of these individuals.”
The internships will go to students pursuing careers in mission support (such as finance, human resources and IT); government contracts and acquisitions; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; public policy and administration; and liberal arts (such as communications, arts and social sciences). The application process is already open and candidates must make their submissions by Jan. 31. Those selected will be notified in late March and begin in May.
In addition to the stipend, the interns will have access to professional development sessions, including an orientation and networking events. Michele Amante, the Partnership’s vice president for federal workforce programs, said her team selected Transportation and Commerce as they are currently going through a hiring surge due to the recent bipartisan infrastructure law. The Partnership is currently working with the departments to finalize specific position descriptions.
Schmidt Futures, founded by former Google executive Eric Schmidt and his wife, Wendy, said the program would align with its mission of identifying “exceptional talent” and giving those individuals opportunities to succeed.
“We must reinvigorate our governing bodies by finding and investing in young talent committed to serving others,” said Schmidt Futures CEO Eric Braverman. “I’m excited by the promise of this new program to give the leaders of tomorrow the opportunities they need today to help solve our greatest challenges.”
Connolly, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s panel on Government Operations, recently introduced a bill to launch a Federal Internship and Fellowship Center within the Office of Personnel Management. The center would manage all federal internship programs and seek to better promote the openings with a one-stop shop platform. The Building the Next Generation of Federal Employees Act (H.R. 6104) would require each agency to have an internship coordinator and ensure interns are able to receive credit for their service.
It would also codify the Pathways Program, a President Obama initiative that sought to create more paid internships and fellowships, and make it easier for those individuals to transition into full-time federal employees after they graduate. The initiative, made up of an internship program, a recent graduate program and the Presidential Management Fellowship, has found success in keeping young people in government.
Amante, however, said the changes Obama implemented were harmful to the federal internship program and severely curtailed the number of opportunities. She hoped the Partnership’s pilot program would kick start a conversation around reforms to Pathways and would lead to lessons that can be shared with the Office of Personnel Management and other federal partners. The Biden administration, she said, has committed to implementing such reforms.