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Among the many great honors I have had as Director of the Office of Personnel Management is being able to welcome our country’s newest citizens. I had that pleasure again this past weekend when I spoke to 1,206 new Americans in Oakland, CA.
Looking out at a sea of American flags waving at the historic Paramount Theater, I was filled with awe at these new citizens’ accomplishments and with gratitude that they chose the United States of America as their new home.
These immigrants who came to our shores from 112 different countries are what America is all about: hard work, determination and community. They have followed in the tradition of millions and millions of people who for generations have come here from every corner of the globe to find a better life. In the past decade alone, more than 7 million people have pledged their allegiance to the United States and taken the oath of citizenship.
With July 4th just a little more than a month away, I know that the day on which we all celebrate our nation’s independence will have special meaning for the new citizens I welcomed in Oakland and for the thousands who will take that same oath in similar ceremonies across this great country.
This past weekend I had the honor of giving my first ever commencement speech to the 2014 graduating class of the University of Texas at Brownsville. What a great event!
This time of year is one of celebrations for many families across America, including many of the children of our 2 million strong Federal workforce and some Federal employees who I know are working and going to school at the same time. Congratulations to you all.
While in Texas, I also had the chance to meet with students, faculty and community leaders in Brownsville and at the University of Texas at Pan American.
I told them why I’ve dedicated so much of my time in the past few months talking to students and educators like them. It’s simple: there is almost no more important people to reach than those who will become the our workforce of the future.
I wanted them to know about the many opportunities out there for them, whether they want to work in Texas, or California, or North Carolina. I wanted them to know that there are opportunities available now – Pathways internships and entry-level positions at the Department of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs and the Army – all in Texas. I wanted them to consider public service.
Delivering a commencement speech can be intimidating. But this wonderful crowd of nearly 700 graduates and thousands of their families and friends was welcoming and inspiring. More than 90 percent of the UT Brownsville student body is Hispanic. And 70 percent of Saturday’s graduates were the first in their family to go to college. So was I.
Families and friends revel in the accomplishment of a college degree. But it can also come with some anxiety. What now? Where do I go from here? It can be a scary prospect. But also an exciting one.
I urged the graduates to take their time and when they are to ready think about the next step in their lives. I told them to refuse to take no for an answer, that if you never let go of what ignites your passions, you will find a way to do what you love.
I gave one final piece of advice to the UT Brownsville Class of 2014. It’s advice I gave my own workforce in my first week at OPM.
Don’t just think about what’s possible. Strive for the impossible.
You never know what you will accomplish.
We’ve just announced an exciting alliance between the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the University of Maryland University College (UMUC). UMUC will offer a 25 percent discount on out-of-state tuition rates on courses, certificates, and degree programs to all current Federal employees, spouses, and their legal dependents.
This alliance will increase all Federal employees’ access to high quality and affordable educational resources. One of my top priorities at OPM is to provide our Federal workforce – from resume to retirement – with the training and tools they need to provide excellent service to the American people and to progress and develop in their careers. This alliance will give us just such a tool.
The 25 percent discount will apply to all undergraduate programs and most graduate programs.
Anyone interested can begin to take advantage of this discounted tuition as early as the summer semester at UMUC. Registration for the first online summer session ends on May 14, 2014. UMUC offers two additional online summer sessions in June and July. So, make sure you visit UMUC for more information as well as the application and enrollment instructions.
Frequently asked questions about this exciting opportunity are available through the CHCO memo announcement.
70,000 emergency responses to natural disasters. A free mammography program for women in need. 4,000 children adopted. 500 internships for Hispanic students. 2.8 million AIDS/HIV patients helped.
Those are just some of the ways that more than 24,000 nonprofit charities will use the millions of dollars raised by the Combined Federal Campaign. I want to thank the dedicated Federal employees who year in and year out contribute to this program worldwide. And I also want to thank the volunteers who make the CFC campaign a success each year.
Earlier this week, OPM submitted a final rule to the Federal Register that we believe will build on the more than 50-year success of the CFC and revitalize the program to make it even better, both for the charities who participate and for our Federal employees.
These regulations will mean that more of a Federal worker’s contribution to the CFC will go directly to the charities they want to help. They will mean that the operation of the CFC will be more transparent, more cost-effective and more convenient. They will mean that the CFC will take advantage of the latest cost-saving technology in a transition to online giving.
These new regulations were developed in consultation with Federal employees, charitable organizations, watchdog groups and campaign administrators. The final rule is a result of not only the collaboration with the charities that benefit from our Federal employees’ donations, but also with the public. We received more than 1,000 comments during the review process.
We understand that some groups have expressed apprehension over these changes. We take these concerns seriously and remain fully committed to working closely with charities and key stakeholders as we implement the final rule. Under the new rule, federal employees are able to maximize their contributions and know that the greatest amount of their donations goes directly to the charities that they choose.
Year after year, Federal employees have been incredibly generous in giving to the CFC. In its more than 50-year history, more than $7 billion have been raised for thousands of charities.
These changes will expand the opportunities for giving, both for new employees who will be able to enroll soon after joining the Federal government and through a new Disaster Relief Program, designed to make sure that those in need get help when they need it most.
Every day, the CFC continues to fulfill the dream of its founder: President John F. Kennedy. I believe that the improvements we are announcing today will strengthen and invigorate this vital program for the next half century.
To view OPM’s Fact Sheet on the final rule’s key changes, please visit: www.opm.gov/cfc.
Select this link to view OPM's News Release.
This week, as part of his agenda for expanding opportunity for all Americans and building an economy that works for everyone, President Obama took action to strengthen the enforcement of equal pay laws for employees of Federal contractors. The President also again called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would extend these same protections to all workers.
One of the executive actions the President signed on Tuesday provides a critical tool to encourage pay transparency, so workers will have better data to combat any potential pay discrimination or disparities of which they otherwise may have been unaware.
Today, as part of our larger focus on ensuring transparency within the Federal government, the Office of Personnel Management is releasing a study the President ordered to examine the federal government’s progress to guarantee that all workers can earn a fair and equal wage.
Our report, a Government-wide Strategy on Advancing Pay Equality, looks at the pay of Federal employees over the past 20 years and finds that while we have made important progress toward closing the gender wage gap, we still have work to do.
According to our comprehensive, in-depth review of 37 white-collar Federal job categories, in 2012, women were paid 87 cents for every dollar that a man was paid. In 1992, women in the Federal workforce made just 70 cents on the dollar.
This is a significant improvement over the past 20 years. In fact, when we looked at individual occupations and pay grades, we found that men and women in many occupations make comparable pay.
We also found that there was greater pay equity in occupations and grade levels across Federal white-collar employment.
But while our report shows the progress that we’ve made, we won’t be satisfied until women working in federal jobs earn the same as their male counterparts, at every level. That’s why our report also lays out a roadmap for how we can continue to address this pay disparity. For starters, we need to address the imbalance of hiring in all occupations. We need to build stronger pipelines for women across the board. We also must improve the transparency of our pay tables, particularly when it comes to starting salaries for women, which tend to lag behind men’s.
We also still have work to do when it comes to managers and executives. It is encouraging that our report found that the salary gap for supervisors and managers was less than five cents on the dollar, and for women in the Senior Executive Service (SES), the highest level of Federal leadership, the gap is less than one penny on the dollar.
But women also hold only just one third of these positions – and that’s a number that needs to grow. That’s why we have made it a top priority to mentor women who hold GS14 and GS15 positions to advance into SES jobs. We are doing this nationwide, by connecting SES women working with local Federal Executive Boards to hold coffee chats and other mentoring programs. We’re working with women’s Employee Resource Groups to develop strong training and information programs about how best to get to the SES.
We have a clear guiding principle in Federal law: Federal employees must be paid equal pay for equal work. And that’s a standard that we are committed to reaching across the federal government.
As the Director of the Office of Personnel Management I will continue to strive to make the Federal government a model for ensuring that all people, no matter their gender, are paid equally and fairly for the work they do.
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