The White House executive order to cut the Federal Career Intern Program, a popular and controversial hiring authority slated to end March 1, is a welcome sign.
The executive order issued December 27th, 2010 entitled “Recruiting and Hiring Students and Recent Graduates” calls to establish a comprehensive structure to help the Federal Government be more competitive in recruiting and hiring talented individuals who are in school or who have graduated. The order directs OPM to consolidate student and recent graduate programs into the Pathways Programs framework with three clear program paths that are tailored to recruit, train and retain well-qualified candidates:
- Internship Program. A new Internship Program will be created that is targeted towards students enrolled in a wide variety of educational institutions.
- Recent Graduates Program. This brand new program will target recent graduates of trade and vocational schools, community colleges, universities, and other qualifying institutions. To be eligible, applicants must apply within two years of degree completion (except for veterans precluded from doing so due to their military service obligation, who will have six years after degree completion). Successful applicants will be placed in a two-year career development program with a cohort of peers hired during timeframes aligned with academic calendars. After successfully completing the program, participants will be considered for noncompetitive conversion to career jobs.
- Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program. The PMF Program has been the Federal government’s premier leadership development program for advance degree candidates for more than three decadesThe Executive Order expands the eligibility window for applicants, making it more “student friendly” by aligning it with academic calendars and including those who have received a qualifying advanced degree within the preceding two years. It also directs OPM to set qualification standards, and to make changes in order to make the PMF experience more robust and substantive for participants.
The three Pathways Programs will each provide noncompetitive conversion eligibility to participants and will be used in targeted ways to develop talent for civil service careers. The order also requires agencies to designate a Pathways Programs Officer (at the agency level, or at bureaus or components within the agency) within 45 days, or by February 10, 2011. The Pathways Programs Officer will be in charge of administering Pathways Programs, serving as a liaison with OPM, and reporting to OPM on the implementation of the Pathways Programs and the individuals hired under them.
The Student Career Experience Program, another intern-hiring program, will be replaced with a new program simply called the Internship Program.
This action by the White House and OPM is welcome for a variety of reasons:
- Its no secret that the Fed’s hiring process is complicated and obtuse. Internships and internship programs vary widely from one agency to the next. Having a more clear structure and point of contact will be one step closer to a clearer pathway to a federal career. As stated in the order:”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,” Obama wrote. “Further, exposing students and recent graduates to federal jobs through internships and similar programs attracts them to careers in the federal government and enables agency employers to evaluate them on the job to determine whether they are likely to have successful careers in government.”
- It shines a light once again on internship practices in dire need of review of what works, what doesn’t and how we can better protect interns and the integrity of the internship experience. (It was almost a year ago that the debate around unpaid internships heated up.)
- It presents the opportunity to once again endorse internships as a powerful and effective strategy for individuals to determine the right carer fit and organizations to recruit top talent.
My only hope is that the Pathways Program and Program Officers will take the time to remember that it’s the quality of the experience that matters most.