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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.
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.
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.
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