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During my visit to the West Coast this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with the attendees of OPM’s Federal Internships and Career Expo in Seattle. This event was the first of its kind. I’m thrilled that OPM was able to co-host the expo with the Federal Executive Board and the University of Washington.
This day-long workshop was designed to showcase our Pathways program, which actually includes three programs: internships, jobs for recent graduates, and the Presidential Management Fellows. These employment tracks give young people an opportunity to try out Federal service. For many, Pathways leads to a permanent place in our workforce.
The expo included panels, presentations, and roundtable discussions as well as instructional sessions, such as how to write a Federal resume. We brought together Federal officials from 20 agencies and staff from more than a dozen colleges and universities. More than 100 students attended. We hope to partner with other Federal Executive Boards around the country to host similar events.
The Federal hiring process can seem complex. One of my priorities is to make sure that everyone who is interested in working for the Federal Government knows what their options are and gets the help they need to successfully apply for Federal positions.
Agencies are always looking for top talent, and Pathways is one way that we can bring passionate students and recent graduates, with fresh ideas and perspectives, into government.
And we’ve heard a great deal of positive feedback from our agencies about these programs. Every agency has a Pathways success story to share. Here at OPM, one of our recruiters for Pathways began as a Pathways intern.
A key aspect of my Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion – or REDI – Roadmap is building a world-class Federal workforce. Programs like Pathways help our hiring managers identify the best and brightest in our nation – and they show our newest hires what being a member of the Federal civil service is all about.
Being a Federal employee is about being a part of something bigger than you. It’s about working on behalf of our nation, and everyone in it. For me, as Director of OPM, this means striving to build a workforce that looks like the America we serve. Pathways can help us achieve that goal.
On Wednesday, the Indian Treaty Room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building became a showcase for the Office of Personnel Management’s initiative to attract the best talent in science, technology engineering and math to Federal service.
This “Datapalooza” was part of a celebration of the incredible work Federal STEM employees do now, and it was also a look to the future as we work to fulfill the President’s vision of growing a diverse, engaged and talented STEM workforce for the future.
Our team leaders here at OPM have forged an amazing partnership with Federal employees from across government and from the private sector. The idea was to find ways to use OPM’s valuable data to understand our current STEM workforce and to provide the tools and resources managers need to help them attract and recruit new STEM talent.
This work is so exciting and so important. Let me tell you about just a couple of the projects.
Ray Parr, OPM’s data guru in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion, developed a heat map that shows where our STEM applicants are coming from. His map showed us that the four states contributing the most applicants for Federal STEM jobs are Maryland, Virginia, California and Texas. And, his team produced an applicant dashboard that provides insights into the interests and experiences of job applicants.
At another demonstration, Gary Lukowski, who manages our Data Analysis Group, enhanced the rich data from OPM’s Fedscope with charts and graphs to illustrate the relationships between STEM employees and their agencies. This kind of information will help hiring managers predict trends in the Federal STEM workforce.
We at OPM know that the Federal government is in competition with the private, non-profit and academic sectors for key STEM personnel. One way that OPM, OMB and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are working together to close skills gaps is to remind agencies about some pay flexibilities that can help attract the best talent.
As we say in the Critical Position Pay Authority Memorandum for Chief Human Capital Officer, the critical position pay authority is a potentially underutilized flexibility that can support our efforts. We are encouraging agencies with mission critical STEM positions to better educate agency staff about this opportunity.
Go to the Pay and Leave Flexibilities for Recruitment and Retention Fact Sheet and the Students, Recent Graduates, and Pathways Fact Sheet for additional information on applying to and recruiting for Federal STEM positions.
This exciting STEM event was just the beginning. I am committed to making sure that together with our partners across government, OPM will continue to innovate and expand the tools and resources we provide agencies so they can bring on board the best talent possible to serve the American people.
Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is a great way to really learn what they do every day, and how we can make their lives better. This week, I joined the President’s “Day in the Life” effort. Throughout the summer, senior administrators are traveling the country speaking with -- and learning from -- the people we work for every day.
While in Los Angeles this past week, I had such fun spending time with two extraordinary individuals – Matthew Gonzales, a Federal employee at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, and Megan Rodriguez, an Air Force veteran who works for the state of California as an employment assistant helping other veterans find jobs. Both are young Latinos driven by a passion for public service.
Matthew entered the Federal government as a Pathways intern, a program that brings the best young talent into government and sets them on the path to a Federal career. Matthew is now a civilian program manager at the space and missile center. He also co-led the first chapter of Young Government Leaders in Los Angeles.
Matthew shared something that really made an impression on me. At his job, there is always a lot going on and he is experiencing and doing many things for the first time. But, he said, with pride, while he is not always expected to know everything right away, he is always expected to learn. Matthew knows he has the support and tools that he needs to keep growing, and that is part of the reason why he believes the Federal government is a great place to start his career. That spirit of service is exactly what our nation needs. And I know that Matthew is one of hundreds of thousands of Federal employees with that same enthusiasm.
Megan has a passion for helping fellow veterans find jobs. While attending Mount St. Mary’s College, she founded its Veterans Outreach Association and she has continued that work now that she has graduated. We discussed our shared passion for helping women veterans get Federal jobs, especially STEM jobs. She would be a great fit in the Federal government.
In Matthew and Megan, I saw so many positive qualities: passion, dedication, an overwhelming desire to help people, a call to service, and a truly hopeful vision of the future. These young professionals remind me what it was like to once walk in shoes similar to theirs. I know there are obstacles they face each day, but their commitment to public service makes me confident we will continue to have a diverse, talented, caring, and devoted Federal workforce. Their insights helped me understand firsthand what young Latinos are thinking and what we need to do to attract them to Federal service.
I was glad to be able to tell them that we are already working hard to increase the number of Federal employees from underrepresented communities and to support and develop them in their careers. They share my commitment that we have a workforce that truly represents the bright mosaic of the American family.
So really, we learned a lot from each other. If we take the time to stop, listen, and just for a moment, put ourselves in another’s shoes, we’ll keep learning. And that makes all the difference.
It’s no secret that we need more millennials in the Federal government. Currently only 7% of the workforce is under the age of 30. And this sought-after demographic is a constant topic of the national conversation – their habits, their vices, their skills. But instead of talking about them, I want to talk to them.
So millennials, here’s what I want you to know.
We have a place for you in the Federal government. You tell us you want a job that matters, that you want to work for organizations that make a difference. You want to be in a place that encourages and rewards innovative thinking. You want to be able to develop your skills. And, most of all, you care about public service and believe that government can make a difference.
We know we can’t offer all the perks that the private sector does. We don’t have endless free food, company cars to get you to work or huge signing bonuses. But we can offer you the chance to develop, to lead, and to make a difference in people’s lives.
In the Federal government, you can have the job you dreamed of as a child. You can be a firefighter, an astronaut, or a doctor. You can help the homeless, care for our veterans, or meet with foreign dignitaries. You can help a budding entrepreneur start a small business, a student be the first in her family to go to college, or an inventor get his first patent. You can do almost anything in the Federal government.
I know you want a better hiring process. We’re working hard to make our job announcements easier to understand. We’re expanding our outreach to job seekers by increasing our use of technology to recruit, especially social media. And we’re launching a new applicant website this summer that will make one-stop shopping possible. It will have resources ranging from how to tailor your resume for a job with government to how to apply to the Pathways Program, all in one place.
I know you may not want to commit for the long term. You want to try new things and grow in a variety of jobs. I admire that and I respect that. So I am asking you to give us a try, to give Federal service a few years. We need your energy. We need your knowledge. We need your innovation.
Try us out. Check out the Pathways and Recent Graduates Programs. Apply to be a Presidential Management Fellow. Join the Federal family and see if we’re a fit. We have a lot of important work we can do together.
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.
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