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Five years ago, President Obama signed an Executive Order that created Pathways, a group of internship programs that serve as a clear expression of the value the Federal government places on recruiting and retaining students and recent college graduates for public service careers. These programs are also shining examples of one of my highest priorities as Director of OPM – to create a skilled federal workforce that reflects the diversity of the American people.
On Monday, OPM hosted its first Pathways Programs Day, a comprehensive training event held at NIH for current Pathways participants. We brought them together to discuss the future of the Federal workforce and to receive information about skills training and continuing education opportunities. These young people also heard from some remarkable public servants who credit their success, in part, to their participation in Pathways.
Pathways includes three programs: an internship for current students; the Recent Graduates Program for people who have graduated within the past two years, and the Presidential Management Fellows Program for people who have received an advanced graduate or professional degree in the past two years.
One of our panelists Monday was Nigel Simon. Nigel began his Federal service as a Pathways intern and is now a member of the Senior Executive Service. He works at the EPA. Raised in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nigel’s 17-year Federal career began when he went to USAJOBS.gov and applied for the forerunner of Pathways, the Student Career Experience Program.
Nigel said the skills he developed in Pathways helped prepare him for his career. He has worked for a variety of offices at the EPA, including in the New York City region, which covers his home in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. When Nigel spoke with Pathways participants on Monday, he urged them to follow one of his early mentor’s advice: Soak up as much as you can from each experience you have.
Today Nigel pays forward that early mentoring he got by serving as a mentor himself, to students and young hires just entering public service. “I do one shadow assignment every six months,” Nigel said.
Channing Martin, a native of Washington, D.C., started her Federal career as an intern at OPM. She used Pathways to rise to the next level, securing an apprenticeship working with our SES team, the CHCO and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “I had a rotation set up and got a lot of experience that way,” she said.
After she received her graduate degree, Channing became a Presidential Management Fellow. Today, she still works at OPM, helping to recruit and award applicants to that Pathways program. She specializes in recruiting from the STEM disciplines -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
I think I will give Channing the last word about Pathways for those just starting their careers in public service or preparing to go to the next level.
“From my grad school, the Big Five consulting firms are coveted,’’ Channing said. “I want the Federal government to be regarded that way.”
So do I Channing. Showcasing our successful and talented public servants like Nigel and Channing will help us get the word out about our remarkable employees and the terrific Pathways programs that provide an entry to the satisfying work of public service.
As I celebrate my one-year anniversary as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, I have reflected on OPM’s accomplishments over the past few months. I think about how honored I am to be a part of a team that has done so much for the American people. And today I hosted a digital town hall to talk about how OPM will continue to move America’s Workforce forward in the coming years.
As Director, I have met so many Federal employees from across the country. Their wisdom and their suggestions have enlightened me and guided me. Their feedback and input inspired us to create a new initiative that focuses on how we can recruit, develop, and engage a diverse workforce for today and for the future. I’m calling this initiative REDI, which stands for Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion.
When it comes to recruitment, REDI will help us hire more people like the guests I highlighted at today’s town hall. Gioia Massa, whom I met at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, is living her childhood dream of growing plants in space. Miriam Martin, whom I visited with at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, is a woman veteran who wants to use her military logistics skills in Federal service. And Matthew Gonzales, a young man I met in Los Angeles who works on satellite communications for the Air Force. There are many Gioias, Miriams, and Matthews, driven by innovation and imagination, who want to be a part of the Federal family. REDI will help hiring managers bring such talented people into their agencies.
With the REDI initiative, we are also rethinking how we better recruit and communicate with job-seekers. And as our workforce ages, we need to focus on recruiting more young people. The millennial generation wants to work at places where they can innovate and make their marks. We are increasingly using social media to reach them, and that outreach will continue to grow in the coming months. We also must create the right pipelines for people to come into government. That’s why we are enhancing Pathways, OPM’s programs for student interns, recent graduates, and Presidential Management Fellows. Pathways participants get a taste of government service through fulfilling experiences that include training and real-work exposure. And then maybe, they will join the next wave of Federal employees.
I will be talking more about our efforts in the coming weeks and months and I look forward to sharing them in more detail with you. This past year has taught me that Federal employees are constantly looking for better ways to do their jobs better and to serve the American people. I know that REDI will help them do that.
So thank you to my Federal family for an incredibly rewarding first year. Thank you for all you do each and every day to serve America. Going forward together, we will continue to show every American that they are served by a mission-driven, talented, and model Federal workforce.
Today I have an update on a program that provides health insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of Americans: the Multi-State Plan (MSP) Program. The Affordable Care Act created the MSP program to foster competition and bring consumers more choices in the Health Insurance Marketplace.
I first wrote about the MSP Program earlier this year. At that time, we were still evaluating the program’s results for the 2014 health plan year. Now that we have a full year of the program under our belt, I am happy to announce that we offered more than 150 MSP options in 31 states, including the District of Columbia, and enrolled more than 370,000 individuals into MSP plans.
This is a strong start for a brand new program, and we are working to offer these types of plans in even more states in 2015 and beyond. OPM is adding a second health insurer in 2015. The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans are joining the program and will sell MSP options alongside the Blue Cross Blue Shield MSP options in the Health Insurance Marketplace. CO-OPs are a relatively new type of health insurer. They are non-profit organizations that are customer-driven. They are designed to offer consumer-friendly, high-quality health insurance options. The addition of the CO-OPs to the MSP Program will help advance OPM’s role in making sure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance.
In addition to adding a second health insurer in 2015, we are expanding the MSP Program into five additional states, for a total of 36 states, including D.C. We will offer more than 200 MSP plan options.
Beginning November 15, you can sign up for an MSP option, or another health insurance plan, through HealthCare.gov or CuidadodeSalud.gov. If you have questions, call 1-800-318-2596. So if you have friends or family members who need health insurance, be sure to share this information with them.
We all have a loved one who served in the military. Their stories teach us, inspire us, and remind us of what our country stands for. They teach us about sacrifice, about courage, and about determination.
That is why Veterans Day is so important and also so personal. It’s a day to remember those who sacrificed everything to serve our great country. For me, it’s a time for me to remember and to honor the sacrifices of my brother. When he returned home from service in the Vietnam War, I was still very young. He never talked about the hardships of his service, even as we grew older together. And while it was hard for me to accept that I will never know everything there is to know about my brother, I also realize that his silence is his story. And I accept and honor that.
This year is the fifth anniversary of President Obama's signing of the Executive Order on Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government. The EO made helping veterans transitioning into civilian Federal employment a top priority, and since then, we have made tremendous progress. According to OPM’s report, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch for FY 2013, 24 percent of total hires government-wide were veterans in 2009 and that rate increased to 31 percent in 2013. That is the highest percentage of veterans since the mid-1970s. It’s a great accomplishment. But we still have more work to do.
We have veterans transitioning to civilian life from service in Iraq, Afghanistan and other postings following several years – and often multiple tours of duty – during the war on terrorism. They bring home with them a wealth of skill, talent, and expertise, not to mention such workplace intangibles as self-discipline, work ethic and team-minded approaches to solving problems. Many of them have whole careers ahead of them still, and they want to continue to serve their country. I am absolutely committed as the Director of OPM to making sure that we give these veterans, who served their country so nobly in the military, a chance use their skills and their talents to continue their mission of service. I know that we are better for it.
This year, I think about my brother and how proud I am of him. And I think about, and honor, all you who have served in the military and who are continuing to serve in the Federal government. Keep sharing your stories. We need to hear them.
It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the President of the United States gave me the best job of my life -- Director of the Office of Personnel Management. I am so grateful to my OPM family for welcoming me, for supporting me, and for working so incredibly hard to serve the American people.
I have such a sense of pride and wonder at my staff’s professionalism and strength. In the past year OPM has accomplished so much. We’ve published many crucial regulations on everything from non-discrimination to honoring our fallen Federal heroes. We’ve successfully managed our first year of the Affordable Care Act’s Multi-State Plans, and we’ve raised more than 70,000 pounds of food for the homeless. Together, we processed over a hundred thousand retirements, formed new educational partnerships, and created the agency’s first digital innovation team. We’ve continued the important work of the President’s Council on Veterans Employment, and established an initiative around strengthening our efforts for women veterans and veterans of color. And over the past year we've implemented a series of measures to improve oversight of background investigations which has enabled us to continue to deliver on our solemn responsibility of providing high quality investigations for 95% of the federal government.
So much happens every day here at OPM to make sure that agencies have the resources, tools, and expertise they need to hire, train, and develop their employees. And that’s just a handful of the accomplishments of the past year. The hardworking employees at OPM rarely rest.
Let me put a few faces to the accomplishments. Because it can be easy to forget that behind the numbers, the facts, and the accomplishments are hard-working and passionate individuals.
Debbie Robinson of our CHCO Council staff stepped up to lead Adelante, one of our many Employee Resource Groups that engage and inform all of us at OPM. Ray Parr worked tirelessly to bring OPM’s rich supply of data to life, creating a STEM applicant dashboard that will help hiring managers attract more diverse applicants to Federal service. Kathryn Hidalgo and her great HRS team in San Antonio came together to improve their Customer Satisfaction Survey scores for two years running. And Michael Murray in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion worked with agencies across the government to make hiring and retaining people with disabilities a priority.
I am proud not only of my own employees, but of our entire Federal family. I know that every agency across the Federal government is just as productive, efficient, and hard-working as we are. That is why I am honored to be the head of this amazing agency and to lead the human resources effort for all Federal employees. In the past year, I have traveled around the country and shouted out the incredible accomplishments, efforts, and dedication of our Federal family. And I’m just getting started.
To highlight the great work of this agency and of employees across government and to discuss the future of the Federal workforce, I invite you all to join me at a digital town hall on Friday, November 14 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET. I’ll share some of the highlights from my first year and talk about my plans to recruit, engage, and develop a skilled workforce that reflects the people we serve. I’ll also answer your questions. Share your questions on social media using hashtag #AmericasWorkforce from now until Friday and you just may get your question answered live on our Google Hangout. Please RSVP today!
Thank you. I am proud of each and every one of you. You make my job meaningful, worthwhile, and fun. You give me purpose and you drive my passion for public service. So, whether you work across the street or across the world, I’m looking forward to continuing our work together.
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