Now the real work begins

Scholarship for Service Web site

The largest group of federal cyberdefenders to graduate under the Scholarship for Service program so far is pounding the pavement as the class of 2003 begins its search for jobs in federal agencies.

These graduate and undergraduate students received federal money to study information assurance in exchange for a one- or two-year stint working in the federal Cyber Corps when they graduate.

About 44 students from the scholarship program will graduate this spring, ready to put their training and experience to work in government. Some have found jobs already, but some have not.

Last month, the Office of Personnel Management launched the Scholarship for Service Web site (www.sfs.opm.gov) to help match students with agency jobs, but some say it should have been launched long before this group of students started looking for jobs.

Agency officials can register on the site, receive information on how to participate in the program, search student resumes and report a "match," said Miguel Hernandez, director of OPM's San Antonio Service Center. The students, who are required to register, will also have access to information on the agencies, he said.

The site is a good first step in helping to fix what some say is a weakness in the program: a lack of knowledge among agency officials that the Scholarship for Service program even exists.

"The trouble is, word needs to get out among the people who need to hire" the students rather than among the human resources directors, said Sujeet Shenoi, a computer science professor at the University of Tulsa, Okla., who manages the Scholarship for Service program for the university. "We think the Web site will help because it will be a one-stop shop."

OPM has written to agencies to encourage them to participate and is working closely with the CIO Council and school representatives, Hernandez said. "It's a very young program," he said. "As we progress, the agencies will become more aware" of it.

The program has received high marks from students, but the job search process has been somewhat discouraging.

Preston Gillmore, who will receive in less than a month a graduate degree in computer science from Tulsa, is interviewing for the second time with a federal agency he declined to name.

Gillmore, who has numerous degrees and more than 15 years of experience in information technology, said he and his wife, Julie Evans, who is also participating in the Scholarship for Service program, are concentrating on the Washington, D.C., area "because that's where the jobs are."

"It's a wonderful program," he said. "I just want to take the education and experience I've got and take it to an agency."

Rick Ayers, another program participant graduating from Tulsa with a graduate degree in computer science, is waiting to hear about a job with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, where he interned last summer.

"My internship at NIST [was] wonderful," he said. "We had a lot of freedom and got to use our imagination.... Hopefully, I'll be back at NIST."

Agencies should jump at the opportunity to hire the students, said Ira Hobbs, co-chairman of the CIO Council's Workforce and Human Capital for IT Committee.

"I think the Scholarship for Service program offers a unique opportunity to help the government to fill an area that is critical in our portfolio of IT jobs," he said.

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Calling e-Scholars

The Office of Personnel Management launched a Web site March 28 designed to give students a single place to find information on scholarships, internships, fellowships and other programs offered by the federal government.

The e-Scholar site (studentjobs.gov/e-scholar.htm) includes about $400 million worth of educational scholarships, and the list will continue to grow, said Barry Williams, a White House Fellow who developed the site for OPM. "We want to make e-Scholar a $2 billion site," he said. "We've only scratched the surface" of what is available to students.

The site lists information on domestic and international opportunities for students in high school through graduate school. It also enables students to apply online if the agency running the program supports that capability, Williams said.

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