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I love getting out of Washington. I’m in Albuquerque, New Mexico this week, where I joined the Society of American Indian Government Employees at its annual training program.
Going to Albuquerque was a bit of a homecoming for me and gave me a chance to talk with Native American Federal employees about my mission to build a 21st Century workforce that looks like America.
For eight years, I had the honor of being a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian Arts. I also was the executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation in Albuquerque. Being an IAIA trustee gave me a deep understanding of the richness of both the history and the culture of the Native American community. It also opened my eyes to the influences Native people have, not just the culture, but the economy of New Mexico and the region.
I told the SAIGE conference that I understand that I cannot successfully recruit from the Native American community without taking into account issues of family and tradition. As a Latina, I share that appreciation of the importance of family and history. So I asked for their help in sharing their experiences as Federal employees with their friends, neighbors and members of your community.
After the conference, I also met with Governor Paul Torres Sr. of the Isleta Pueblo and went to the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. I talked with the students there about opportunities in Federal service and about our need for young people with the very skills in science, math, engineering and technology that SIPI focuses on.
Visits like these help give me ideas about recruiting strategies, about where best to target my efforts. As the Administration official responsible for bringing new talent to the Federal government, I am committed to developing a workforce that looks like the people it serves.
Currently, Native Americans comprise 1.7 percent of the Federal workforce and 1.1 percent of the Senior Executive Service. Most Native American Federal employees work for the Department of Interior or the Department of Health and Human Services. We must broaden that participation. We need the talents, the passions, and the contributions of the Native American community at every government agency, at every level of leadership, at every decision table.
Government may not be able to compete with private industry when it comes to money or perks. But where we can compete, and compete nobly, is in making a difference in people’s lives.
Federal employees do that every day. For me, it was attempting to comfort the families of plane crash victims when I was at the Department of Transportation and hearing from low wage workers about how a regulation helped them get a better deal at the workplace while I was at the Department of Labor. And now at OPM, I can help bring more people into the Federal service.
We need people from every community that makes up America, including Native Americans. I know that if we have a workforce that draws from as many cultural backgrounds as possible, we will be able to best serve the American people.
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