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Speeches & Remarks Next Generation of Government Training Summit

Remarks of OPM Director Katherine Archuleta

Next Generation of Government Training Summit

Crystal Gateway Marriott

July 25, 2014

As prepared for delivery

Good morning! Thank you Dave (Uejio). Thank you for your work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and for your activism with Young Government Leaders. I understand your first role at that bureau was to recruit people. Maybe you and I should talk about what worked for you. I'm always on the lookout for new recruitment strategies.

I want to start by congratulating all the winners of the Next Generation awards. What an impressive group. I know you were honored at an awards ceremony on Wednesday. But please, would the winners and finalists who are here this morning please stand and let us congratulate you again. Well done.

I want to talk to you today about how important it is that we, together, build the model workforce for the 21st Century and about some of the initiatives I'm working on to make that happen.

But first, I want to say thank you. Thank you for the work you do each and every day to serve the American people. I know you had choices when you graduated from college about what path to pursue. I'm glad you chose public service and the Federal government.

Looking around this room I see people with the energy, the innovation and the motivation to make our great Federal workforce even greater. And the fact that you have taken the time to attend this training summit is more evidence of that. And thank you YGL and GovLoop for organizing this conference.

Speaking of the choices young workers have in the job marketplace, recently I went to Silicon Valley to talk with tech company leaders. I picked their brains about what they do to recruit the best and the brightest and even more important, what they do to keep talented people like you once they are hired. The campuses of these tech companies are just like what you hear about. They practically pick up their employees and carry them in their arms to work. They feed them. They water them. They give them bicycles, a gym.

I asked a vice president at Google how he thinks I could possibly compete with all of that. He said … you can't. He's right. I can't compete with the carrying and watering and feeding and bicycling and the corporate chefs. And then he said something that in my heart I already knew: He said that where I can compete and where government can actually win, is the fact that government workers have a noble mission, that the work that they do every day is purpose driven. It's not about the bottom line. It's about the top line of public service.

So I can compete. We all can compete. Where we can compete, and compete nobly, is in making a difference in people's lives. 

We help Americans every day -- young people, elders, working families, mothers and fathers. We assist victims of floods, of wild fires, of tornadoes. We help budding entrepreneurs get small business loans. We can help a young student be the first in her family to go to college.

These impacts cannot be measured in dollars and cents. But they can be measured in how you feel about yourself and the contributions you make through the work you do. For me, and I suspect for you, public service is personal. We all have stories to tell about why a career in public service fulfills us.

For me, it was attempting to comfort the families of plane crash victims when I was at the Transportation Department. It was hearing from low wage workers about how a regulation I helped to write while I was at the Labor Department helped them get a better deal at the workplace. And now at OPM, where I can help bring more people into the Federal service, it is personal.

I hope you never lose that mission of public service wherever your career takes you. I also know that the Millennial generation is one that doesn't sit still. You are practically looking for your next job the moment you start the one you've just gotten. So I'm not asking you to make a lifetime commitment to us. But one thing you probably already know if you've been a Federal employee for any time -- You can have a dozen careers and still work for the Federal government.  The array of opportunities is practically limitless.

What we need are people with the critical skills that can serve us well in so many jobs. We need people who can communicate well. That means writing. That means public speaking. We need people who can solve problems, who can come up with innovative solutions to new challenges. Skills like that will make you so valuable in any number of jobs, in departments and agencies all across the Federal service.

What I also know about the Millennial generation is that you don't look for jobs in the same way my generation did. We are doing something about that. We are expanding our reach to job applicants by increasing our use of social media. I am on Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. Every day we are expanding the platforms we are using. We are engaging and becoming a player in today's digital employment marketplace. I know we need to reach out to today's job applicants, not ask them to come to us. At OPM we are tweeting out job announcements in plain English, not government speak. The first blog we posted on Linked In aimed at attracting Millennials to Federal Service got more than 13,000 hits.

As part of the President's Management Agenda, we are working to untie the knots that make it more difficult for managers to hire the talent they need. We are making the hiring process easier, more effective and more fair.  We are making job descriptions clearer, more understandable and more compelling.

Even as we are improving the way we recruit and hire people for the Federal workforce, we are also concentrating on building an excellent management core for the future.

To do that we are providing agencies with an improved onboarding program for new members of the Senior Executive Service, the highest level of executive leadership in the Federal government. We want to make sure our new leaders are supported from the day they start their assignment and that we continue that guidance as they progress. This fall we will unveil new Situational Mentoring and coaching programs. When an SES member has a workplace issue that they need help with, the Situational Mentoring program will pair them up with a ready mentor who can help them through their immediate problem.

I cannot stress enough the importance of mentoring as you progress in your careers -- whether here in the Federal government or in the private sector. I don't view mentoring as a feel-good kind of exercise. I see it as a responsibility each one of us has. We all need a mentor, and not just in the beginning of our careers. I have been lucky enough to have strong mentors who have advised and counseled me for most of my career. They have helped guide me, they have propped me up when the stress got to me. And frankly, they have been there to tell me to get a grip when I began to feel sorry for myself.

I like to think I am paying that forward by being a mentor and a sounding board for my staff at OPM. I encourage you to do the same. You will get as much back from those you mentor as you will give.

Finally, I want to end where I began.  Thank you for the work you do each and every day in service to the American people. Thank you for choosing the Federal government as a stop on your career path. And thank you for spreading the word about the values, the rewards and the benefits of public service to your friends, your neighbors and your colleagues.

I know that together, we will continue to make sure that the Federal service is THE model workforce for the 21st Century.

Thank you.

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