The Washington Post

The federal Pathways Programs are a-comin’: Low-cost ways to prepare your agency

For the first time in decades, our government is launching a new set of programs to improve the recruiting and hiring of college students and recent graduates.

Established by a presidential executive order, the Pathways Programs are designed to help agencies provide students and recent graduates with clear paths to internships and full-time employment, as well as meaningful training, mentoring and career-development opportunities.

Comprised of the Internship program, Recent Graduates program and Presidential Management Fellows program, the Pathways Programs will assist agencies in attracting talent, educating and engaging employees, and filling key competency gaps. In the past, complex and lengthy procedures, disparate programs and low intern conversion rates have prompted many talented candidates to choose opportunities in other sectors rather than the federal government.

The regulations governing these programs for a new generation of employees takes effect on July 10, and as a federal leader, it is essential to capitalize on this opportunity. To do so, you need to ensure that your agency has the necessary resources available, plans in place, sufficient support and persistent follow-through.

Here are some low-cost, high-impact strategies that can help your agency comply with the new rules and position your programs for success.

Set the vision. Do not view the Pathways Programs as simply a hiring authority. View it as a way to build your workforce of the future. The Pathways Programs offer agencies a unique opportunity to compete for top talent and strategically fill critical gaps in knowledge, skills and abilities. As a federal leader, it is important that you work with your human resources (HR) office and other stakeholders to identify high-level workforce needs and determine how the Pathways Programs can help meet them. Then, make sure you and your colleagues communicate that vision throughout your agency.

Collaborate. Don’t operate in a silo. Talent management is everyone’s issue, not just an HR issue. As you build your team, identify and involve colleagues from across your agency that have a vested interest in these programs and can contribute their expertise. This may include hiring managers, attorneys and individuals working in policy and human resources.

Don’t simply check the box. Yes, you need to take some immediate steps to comply with the Pathways Programs regulations, but consider the longer-term view of what your agency will need to do to optimize these initiatives. For example, don’t simply focus on the number of training and development hours required for each of the Pathways Programs. Instead, determine the type of training that positions the participant and your agency for long-term success.

Measure progress. Determine what success will look like for your agency. Have you increased the number of interns being converted to full-time employment? Has the quality of your new hires increased? How will you know?

If you have ideas for effectively initiating the Pathways Programs and bringing young talent into the federal government, feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below or by emailing me at

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View Photo Gallery: Leadership experts from Warren Bennis to Tom Peters share their picks of the best leadership books to hit shelves this year.

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Tom Fox, of the Partnership for Public Service, explores workplace issues and provides advice for federal managers through analysis, interviews and reader Q&As in his Federal Coach blog for On Leadership.



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