The reforms come amid a broader push within the Biden administration to bolster enrollment in internships and other early career programs.

The reforms come amid a broader push within the Biden administration to bolster enrollment in internships and other early career programs. gerenme/Getty Images

OPM finalizes reforms to federal internship programs

Biden administration officials hope improvements to the federal government’s Pathways Program will make it more appealing for potential applicants and easier to use as an agency recruitment tool.

The Office of Personnel Management is set to finalize new regulations revamping the federal government’s internship program for the first time in a decade, as the Biden administration seeks to ramp up recruitment of early-career Americans into public service.

The move to update the Pathways Program, which is made up of the government’s internships, for high school and college students, recent graduates, a one- to two-year program for those who have recently completed a degree or certificate, and presidential management fellows programs, for people who have attained advanced degrees, comes following a decade of falling enrollment and low rates of conversion of interns into permanent employees. First proposed last summer, the regulations, which are slated for publication Friday in the Federal Register, mark the first update to the internship programs’ policies since 2012.

Among the changes in the reform package are expanding eligibility for the Recent Graduates program to include people who have completed noncollegiate post-secondary education, such as career or technical education programs and apprenticeships, allowing internship applicants who have completed registered apprenticeship programs or Job Corps to credit time served in those programs toward the work hours needed to convert to a permanent job, and reducing the minimum number of work hours required of an intern to convert them to a permanent position from 640 down to 480 hours.

“OPM reminds readers that an agency may require more than the minimum of 480 hours for conversion based on agency specific training and development or other internship program requirements,” the rule states. “An agency must identify the minimum number of hours required for conversion of an intern int eh agency’s pathways policies.”

Additionally, agencies will have 180 days to convert interns into permanent position—an increase from the current 120 days—and agencies will be able to hire recent graduates at up to a GS-11 starting salary, rather than the current GS-9.

The reforms come amid a broader push within the Biden administration to bolster enrollment in internships and other early career programs—and ensuring those posts are paid—thereby increasing recruitment of young people in government. OPM already has eased rules around the hiring of interns to permanent jobs and committed to hiring more than 35,000 interns during the 2023 fiscal year.

In a statement, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said the new rules will both make it easier for agencies to accept interns and then offer successful participants full-time employment and less of a headache for students and recent graduates interested in public service.

“Early career programs are critical to recruit the next generation of government leaders,” Ahuja said. “The updates to the Pathways Programs will increase opportunities and remove barriers to hire interns, fellows, apprentices, recent students and trainees, which will help federal agencies boost their talent pipelines to serve the American people. No matter what your interests are, the federal government offers opportunities in nearly every sector and every industry.”

The new rule will take effect June 10, while agencies will have until Dec. 7 to implement its provisions.