OPM proposes new pathways to employment

August 4, 2011

Students and recent graduates would have a new path into career federal employment after completing internships or developmental assignments under rules proposed Thursday by the Office of Personnel Management.

The rules would create a new umbrella program called the Pathways Program, which in some ways would replace former internship and student-hiring programs, as ordered by President Obama in December.

“These regulations commit the federal government to two key goals,” OPM Director John Berry said in a statement. “First, they require pathways to federal service to be clear and accessible for students and recent graduates. Second, they press us to create a federal culture where agency leadership is actively engaged in recruiting, training, and managing top talent.”

The government’s hiring record for recent graduates has come under criticism recently for being discouraging and frustrating to applicants, and hiring methods in general are being simplified and streamlined.

The Pathways Program is to have three parts.

The existing Presidential Management Fellows Program for those with advanced degrees, mainly but not exclusively in the public administration area, is being kept. Participants work in two-year developmental programs and afterward may be converted into career positions. Its eligibility criteria will be loosened, and its cycle will be changed to better fit academic calendars.

Similarly, a new Recent Graduates Program will provide two-year developmental assignments with the chance for conversion to career status for those who have graduated or received certificates from qualifying educational institutions or programs within the previous two years. For service members who have military obligations that extend beyond those two years, the eligibility period would be six years.

Also, a new Internship Program is being created for high school, vocational and technical, undergraduate and graduate students to expose them to potential federal careers through internships, replacing several existing programs. Agencies could convert interns who successfully complete the program to any competitive service position for which the intern is qualified.

When making selections in any of the three programs, agencies will have to give preference to veterans who apply under standard government hiring rules.

Even if participants are not placed in federal jobs, the experience could make it more likely that they would pursue federal service later in their careers, OPM said.

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