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Our Director Director's Blog

Pathways

The background is a close up of two windows of OPM's headquarters in Washington D.C. reflected in the window is American and OPM flags waving in the wind. Beside the building is blue sky and in black text:

Every day, the 2.1 million women and men of the Federal Workforce tackle some of our country’s most pressing issues. Whether caring for our veterans, supporting our troops, fighting forest fires, or planning a mission to Mars, Federal employees are focused on making life better for the American people.

In a 2014 address, President Obama said: “To rise to meet the challenges of the 21st century, we need a Federal Workforce with the necessary skills, experience, and tools to meet its diverse mission now and in the future.”  At the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), we work to fulfill this vision. Our mission is to help agencies recruit, retain, and honor a world-class Federal workforce to serve the American people.

Today, OPM has joined our sister agencies in sketching out for the American people a summary of the efforts we have made during this administration to fulfill the President’s vision.

Over the past eight years, our overarching focus has been to modernize the way OPM supports agencies, current and former Federal employees, and their families. By embracing new ways to use data to make decisions, investing in new tools and technologies, and streamlining our processes, we have helped foster a workforce capable of tackling 21st century challenges. In particular, we have focused on:

  • Making the Federal Government a model employer by adopting workplace policies that reflect the modern American economy;

     

  • Strengthening the personnel system to improve Federal agencies’ capacity to recruit, hire, develop, engage, and retain workforces ready to meet 21st century challenges;

     

  • Building a roadmap to better protecting the integrity of the Federal workforce by modernizing the way the government performs background investigations;

     

  • Improving our operations by embracing new tools and technology and enhancing our focus on customer service and cyber security.

The memorandum goes into detail about our agency-wide efforts. I want to highlight just some of the work we’ve done. You can see a fuller description of these efforts and what we see as the best way to continue this journey in OPM’s full memorandum.

In striving to make the Federal government a model employer, OPM has expanded opportunities for people from all elements of society. We’ve made progress in closing the gender pay gap, increased workplace flexibilities to help employees balance their work life and home life. We’ve also promoted diversity and inclusion in the Federal workforce.

Strengthening the personnel system needs to reinforce and build on the merit system principles that represent the bedrock values that have long stood as the foundation of this nation’s civil service system.

Through our Pathways programs we’ve created clearer paths to Federal careers for students and recent graduates and enabled the government to compete more effectively with the private sector for this talent. We’ve brought experts from the private sector into government through innovative fellowship programs. And we established a hiring excellence campaign to help human resources specialists and managers hire the critical talent they need.

The events of recent years have underscored the need to guard against threats to the Federal Government’s personnel, property, and information systems. OPM plays a central role in protecting against threats as we conduct 95 percent of the Federal Government’s background investigations that help agencies make employment, security clearance, and credentialing decisions. By establishing the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) and continuing to modernize the background investigations process, OPM has come a long way in helping the Federal Government build and maintain a trusted workforce.

At OPM customer service is at the heart of everything we do. OPM has embraced new tools and technologies to help deliver better customer service and better secure the information we house. We’ve made significant progress in modernizing and securing information technology systems. We continue to provide high quality health benefits for the 9.2 million Federal employees, retirees and their families who are enrolled in the Federal Employment health Benefit program.

These are some of the highlights of the work OPM has done during this administration to fulfill our mission to recruit, hire, develop, retain and honor the men and women who work every day to deliver excellent service to the American people.

There is much more work to be done. I am confident that the dedicated men and women of OPM will continue in their efforts to build an even greater workforce now, and in the future.

 


Yellow background that fades to a deep orange. On the left are strings, multi-color that twist down. One red string moves over and forms line across in the letter A in the word America, written in blue cursive text. On the right in white text in all caps are the words embracing, enriching and enabling. Then the cursive America is underneath.

As we recognize National Hispanic Heritage Month, I want to take this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to help agencies across government inspire people from all communities, including Hispanics, to pursue a career in Federal service.

The President is committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce and throughout his Administration he has reached out to incredibly talented Hispanics to help lead our government. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Administrator of the Small Business Administration Maria Contreras-Sweet, and White House Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz are just a few leaders that epitomize the rich diversity of this Administration. Their leadership has not only been critical to our ability to provide excellent service to the American people, but they continue to serve as incredible role models for all those already serving this nation and those considering a career in Federal service.

As the President said in his proclamation celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: “This month, let us reflect on the countless ways in which Hispanics have contributed to our nation’s success, and let us reaffirm our commitment to expanding opportunity and building an ever bright future for all.”

We want to inspire students still in school and those contemplating careers in the Federal service. To kick-off Hispanic Heritage Month OPM, in conjunction with Adelante, our Hispanic Employee Resource Group, will be hosting a student forum on Monday, September 19. I want to thank our partners who helped develop this program: the National Association of Hispanic Employees (NAHE), the Departments of State and the Interior, the Hispanic Employees Council of Foreign Affairs Agencies (HECFAA), and Prospanica D.C.

This forum will introduce students to the robust set of programs called Pathways that help students from high school through post-graduate school try out Federal service through a paid internship. Pathways also provides an entree into the Federal Government for recent graduates. The Presidential Management Fellows program is our premier leadership development program for recent advanced degree holders.

Monday’s forum will feature a panel of Federal leaders who will talk about their experience in the Federal Government and provide students with some advice about their own career paths.

The forum is open to current students who can participate in person at OPM headquarters or via webcast. For more information visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2016-hispanic-heritage-month-student-forum-tickets-27079618869

You can help us ensure every community is represented in government. Reach out to students, recent graduates, and others in your communities and tell them about the opportunities in Federal service. Reach out to your colleagues in the Federal Government and enlist them to act as ambassadors for the Federal service.

We will continue to focus on the recruitment of Hispanic Americans as part of our overall effort to recruit top talent for the Federal workforce.

So as we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s remember that we need a workforce that reflects the diversity and cultures of our communities. As the President says in his proclamation: “Let us embrace the diversity that strengthens us and continue striving to ensure the American dream is within reach for generations of Hispanics to come.”


Green background with a picture of people walking up a staircase made of books.  And the title 'The Pathways Program: Four Years Later. A New Report,' in white and black.

As we celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Pathways Programs, I’m excited to share a study that highlights the way this program has significantly contributed to the Federal Government’s ability to recruit, develop, and retain a world-class workforce.

The Federal Government is only as successful as the people who carry its mission forward. And, with more Federal employees becoming eligible for retirement each day, students, college graduates, and advanced degree holders are a great source of talent. Pathways includes internships, positions for recent graduates, and our Presidential Management Fellows program. If you are a student or recent graduate interested in the many opportunities in the Federal Workforce, please visit: https://www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads

In his 2010 Executive Order that helped establish what has become today’s Pathways Programs, the President said that “the Federal Government benefits from a diverse workforce that includes students and recent graduates who infuse the workplace with their enthusiasm, talents, and unique perspectives.” I couldn’t agree more.

Research tells us that students and recent graduates about to enter the workforce believe in public service and want to make a difference. The Federal Government needs to tap into that innovative spirit and commitment to service. And that is exactly what our Pathways programs continue to do.

Recently, OPM conducted a Pathways Programs study to analyze agencies’ use of Pathways, highlight best practices, and develop recommendations for how to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the program.

One exciting finding was that 93 percent of Pathways Programs participants surveyed said they plan to remain at their current agency or continue to work in the Federal Government in the immediate future. This is good news for our nation.

To help build on our success, and working with our partners at the White House Office of Management and Budget and Presidential Personnel office, OPM this year began a Hiring Excellence Campaign (HEC) designed to improve, modernize, and transform the way we recruit and hire new talent into the Federal service. Improving the use of Pathways is one part of that effort. To find out more about HEC, or to register for an upcoming session, please visit www.OPM.gov/HiringExcellence.

At OPM we want to help agencies across government make the most of the Pathways program and do all they can to encourage students, recent graduates, and advanced degree holders to use Pathways to try out a Federal career.

OPM has developed a Pathways toolkit to help hiring managers and HR professionals make the most out of these exciting programs. The toolkit includes a handbook for HR specialists, a toolkit for hiring managers, Pathways flexibilities charts, and a webinars to help supervisors and HR staff better use Pathways. You can get more information on these sessions at HRU.gov.

Each day OPM and our partners across government are working to improve the way we attract, develop, and retain the critical talent we need to fulfill our missions and service the American people. Tools and initiatives such as the Hiring Excellence Campaign, training opportunities on HRU.gov, and the Pathways toolkit are invaluable resources that can help us meet this important challenge.


Cross-posted from the White House blog.

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, encourages Americans to consider careers in public service--particularly in national security and international affairs.

If you care about the world and want to help shape a better future for us all, there is nothing more rewarding than choosing a career in public service. You can directly contribute to keeping our country strong and safe.

As a public servant, every day brings new and different challenges. The work is hard, but nothing is more gratifying than knowing you’ve made a difference in the world--that you’ve helped make someone’s life just a little bit better.

One of the many benefits of Federal service is that there are positions in virtually every field. While many think that Federal Government jobs are all in Washington, D.C., in fact, 85 percent of Federal positions are outside of the D.C. area. More than 50,000 employees work abroad.

Having public servants from varied backgrounds and with diverse skill sets throughout government is key to developing the best workforce in service of the American people. That is why in August 2011 the President issued an Executive Order calling for a government-wide coordinated effort to promote diversity and inclusion within the Federal workforce. The President’s Management Agenda builds on that commitment.

If you are interested in joining the ranks of Federal public servants, you can begin exploring career opportunities through USAJOBS.gov. Nearly all Federal job openings are posted on this site and each job announcement includes details about responsibilities, qualifications, benefits, and application instructions. At any given time, there are approximately 20,000 positions available.

If you are interested in the national security and international affairs fields, here are some exciting current opportunities:

  • The FBI is looking for talented individuals in a variety of career fields including Special Agents, Computer Engineers, and Cyber Security Specialists.
  • There are many civilian internship opportunities in the Army Materiel Command, which provides worldwide logistics for our troops.
  • Gain insights into diplomacy as a U.S. Department of State intern.
  • The Presidential Innovation Fellows is a highly-competitive opportunity for private sector innovators and technologists to work with high-level public servants to solve Federal government’s biggest challenges.
  • The Pathways Program offers students and recent graduates a chance to explore possible careers in the Federal Government. One part of Pathways is the Presidential Management Fellows Program for recent graduates with master’s or advanced degrees (within two years) who are interested in a career in leadership and policy.
  • The Attorney General’s Honors Program recruits entry-level attorneys at the Department of Justice.

I hope you will consider joining me in serving the American people here and around the world.

Follow Ambassador Rice on Twitter:  @AmbassadorRice


By Maureen Clark, MPH, Public Health Analyst, National Cancer Institute, PMF Class of 2015

This is the time of year that I recall with chagrin how I got my start in the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) program. The applications were due, and I applied at the last minute, the day of the deadline. While I do not recommend that strategy, I do, without reservation, recommend the PMF program.

The application period for this prestigious, competitive program for recent graduates of post-graduate programs is open now through October 13, 2015. If you’re just learning about the program or are on the fence about whether to apply, let me tell you more about my experience.

After being selected as a PMF-STEM finalist -- a track focused on science, technology, engineering, and math -- I was selected by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NCI has been a perfect fit because of my educational background in public health, English, and pre-medical studies, as well as my passion for NCI’s mission: to conduct and support research, training, and programs aimed at reducing the cancer rate.

The PMF program looks a little bit different at each agency. At NCI, PMFs typically complete four to six rotations across the organization. My first rotation was in one of NCI’s program offices, where I worked on strategic planning and the identification of scientific trends related to health communications research. And right now I am in NCI’s Office of Government and Congressional Relations, which serves as the liaison between Congress and NCI’s scientific staff. Each experience presents unique challenges, but all of the offices have treated me as a vital member of the team.

PMFs are also required to complete 80 training hours per year over the course of the two-year program. I have participated in training specific to my current work, as well as a special session on leadership in the style of George Washington at his historic estate in Mount Vernon. I also had the chance to attend sessions on innovation, held at the White House, and on Congress, held on Capitol Hill. There are also extremely helpful informational interviews. During a typical session, I sit down with a colleague at NIH and ask as many questions as I can to learn about his or her career.

The fellowship has provided me with an insider’s view of how the Federal Government operates. I’ve watched the budgeting process and have come to understand the priorities that shape NIH’s mission. And my external rotation -- one of the key features of the PMF program -- in the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Communications gave me a broad perspective on opportunities across government agencies.

I still have another year left in the fellowship, but because of the experiences I’ve had, I have some ideas about what’s next for me. I’d like to continue to address health disparities, particularly as they relate to health literacy and health care access. I am going to use the health communications skills I have been able to develop. And I do hope that my next job will be in the Federal Government.

I’m very glad that I made that last-minute decision to apply to the PMF program nearly two years ago. And I’m grateful for the training, networking, and career opportunities that I’ve had since then. I am most thankful for the chance to have a positive impact on the lives of people across the country.

Visit www.pmf.gov for more information about the PMF program.

- Photo of Maureen Clark a participant of the Presidential Management Fellowship Program.

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