OPM makes it easier to hire young employees

Excepted Service: Student Career Experience Program

The Office of Personnel Management issued its final regulations April 11 regarding the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP).

The program allows students to count their internship work and military service toward minimum requirements to become eligible for noncompetitive conversion to permanent appointment. The rules will take effect May 11.

”These...changes allow federal agencies to take advantage of relevant, job-related experience acquired in public-service work-study programs that are as rigorous as programs they may themselves offer," said OPM Deputy Director Dan Blair, in a press release in mid-March. "Agencies will benefit significantly because they will have prior knowledge of the students' abilities before a job offer is extended.”

“Today’s news shows that OPM has moved the ball in the right direction,” said Max Steir, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service. He said more than 15,720 students worked as SCEP interns in 2003.

OPM hopes the changes to SCEP will allow successful interns and military employees— those who had good agency recommendations, an honorable discharge from military service or an overall grade point average of at least 3.5 — to be put on a fast-track for government positions. The regulations also allow students to credit as many as 320 hours of comparable nonfederal work toward the required total of 640 hours. Hiring young employees has been a major concern for agencies as thousands of baby boomers are set to retire from the workforce.

Most of the contested guidelines include questions from program members, agencies and private consultants about vague language and what constituted requisite experience. Students in the related Student Temporary Employment Program said they are concerned because they are ineligible for the same opportunities. STEP is designed for students whose government work doesn’t directly relate to their academic or career goals. OPM stated that it doesn’t have the authority to enact similar changes to STEP, but individual agencies could convert a STEP appointment into the SCEP.


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