White House steps up federal recruiting efforts

Executive order establishes new Pathways Programs

The Obama administration will start new programs to establish clear paths for the recruitment and hiring of students and recent graduates for entry-level federal jobs. The administration will also end the controversial Federal Career Intern Program, which has long been criticized by labor unions as unfair.

White House officials detailed the new programs and the administration's decision to end the intern program in an executive order released Dec. 27. The Office of Personnel Management will issue regulations to implement the governmentwide programs and will oversee recruitment efforts.

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The Pathways Programs consist of three programs: the Internship Program, the Recent Graduates Program and a modified version of the Presidential Management Fellows Program.

The executive order says new programs are necessary to strengthen the government’s recruitment of qualified applicants for entry-level positions.

“To compete effectively for students and recent graduates, the federal government must improve its recruiting efforts; offer clear paths to federal internships for students from high school through post-graduate school; offer clear paths to civil service careers for recent graduates; and provide meaningful training, mentoring and career-development opportunities,” the order stated.

Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, said in a statement that the government "took a significant step in opening the door to a new generation of public servants. For too long, government has underutilized its internship programs and left highly qualified, proven talent on the table.”

Those eligible for the Recent Graduates program must have gotten a qualifying degree or completed a career or technical education program in the preceding two years. Military veterans will be able to join the program within six years of earning a degree, according to the executive order.

OPM will provide oversight of federal agencies’ use of the Pathways Programs to ensure “that they serve as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the competitive hiring process,” the order states.

As part of the executive order, the White House also scrapped FCIP, the government’s two-year development internship program, which began in 2001.

The National Treasury Employees Union has been fighting to eliminate FCIP, arguing that a number of agencies have abused the program by using it for all new hires.

“I applaud the White House for recognizing that agency misuse of the FCIP far beyond its original intent undercuts a basic pillar of the civil service — fair and open competition for positions — and that it must be ended in its current form,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said in a statement.

In November, the Merit Systems Protection Board also found that FCIP violated a statute relating to veterans’ preferences.

Interns appointed under FCIP will be converted to competitive service, without loss of pay or benefits, starting March 1, according to the executive order. 

NTEU is taking a cautious approach to the new programs. The union said outside of limited internships, it supports competitive hiring in the civil service.

“In a similarity with the FCIP, this new program would be an exception to competitive service, and, as such, it should be very narrowly drawn,” Kelley said.

The executive order directs OPM to establish, “if appropriate,” a governmentwide cap on the number of non-competitive conversions to the competitive service of Interns, Recent Graduates or Presidential Management Fellows, or a governmentwide cap applicable to all three categories together.





About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.


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