OPM's new rules for student hiring

New rules published Tuesday by the Office of Personnel Management give agencies direct hire authority for appointing post-secondary students.

By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268
 

Agencies will be able to appoint qualified college and graduate students directly into certain competitive service positions for up to four years under new regulations from the Office of Personnel Management.

Proponents hope the new hiring authority, meant to help fill administrative and professional positions, will build a pipeline of prospects for federal employment in an aging government workforce. If participating students meet requirements, agencies will be able to appoint them into permanent positions after they graduate.

"This hiring authority will allow agencies to cultivate top talent, bring new perspectives and skills into the federal workforce, and encourage early career individuals to make their mark in federal service," said OPM's Kiran Ahuja in a statement about the new regulations.

OPM published a new interim final rule with request for comments on Tuesday. The changes will go into effect on Sept. 16.

Students working towards their baccalaureate or graduate degree will be eligible if they meet any OPM or agency-specific minimum qualification standards for the position they're applying to.

Agencies will be able to bring them in via time-limited temporary or term appointments to positions at general schedule level 11 or lower, effectively giving them a paid internship while they attend school.

Participants can sign up either for temporary appointments for less than a year, if they're expected to finish their degrees in that time frame, or for term appointments that last between one and four years.

Although requirements to post these positions on USAJOBS are waived for this program, according to the regulations, agencies will still need to give public notice, abide by merit system principles and recruit "in a manner that provides for 'diverse and qualified' applicants."

Students can't be promoted in the program, but those working more than one year who meet requirements for a higher pay grade can be converted to a new temporary appointment at a higher pay grade.

OPM's new regulations also facilitate conversion of these students into the permanent positions. Individuals in the student program for one to four years can be converted to permanent appointments at the same agency after they finish their academic requirements, so long as they meet the qualifications for the position they're being moved into. The rule also sets limits on program participation.

The Biden administration has already made clear its intentions to renew the federal government's shrinking intern pool. The number of paid internships dropped from over 60,000 in 2010 to 4,000 in 2020, according to the FY 2022 budget proposal, which stressed that agencies should revive their internship programs.

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