Last week, ClearanceJobs took notice of pathways to federal jobs like internship opportunities. A few days later, OPM and Acting Director Beth F. Cobert released its “Report on Special Study of the Pathways Programs.” And it’s more good news: Pathways Programs is a success. So if you’re looking for a stepping stone into a career in Federal Service, the Pathways Program might very well be it.
Pathways Programs is a product of President Obama’s December 2010 Executive Order 13562, “Recruiting and Hiring,” which meant to bring Federal hiring of students and recent graduates into the 21st century. The old system—the Student Educational Employment Program, or SEEP—was, as the Executive Order explained, too complex. Rather than encouraging new talent to come to Federal service, SEEP had become “a barrier to recruiting and hiring students and recent graduates. It places the Federal Government,” the Order said, “at a competitive disadvantage compared to private-sector employers when it comes to hiring qualified applicants for entry-level positions.” Four years later, OPM launched the Pathways Programs.
Pathways is a program of programs, as the name suggests. OPM’s August 23 release explains, “Pathways . . . consists of the Internship Program, the Recent Graduates Program, and the Presidential Management Fellows Program . . . .” It’s designed to provide “distinct paths to Federal internships and potential careers in Government for students and recent graduates.” And it’s working.
In just three years (FY2012-FY2015), over 35,000 students and recent graduates have been hired through Pathways. And Pathways isn’t just getting new talent in the doors, it’s keeping the talent. According to the OPM study, “Retention rates under the Programs have been high so far, and the hiring of veterans under them has increased nearly four-fold in comparison to predecessor programs.” The release highlights that “93 percent of Pathways Programs appointees surveyed plan to remain at their current agencies or continue to work in the Federal Government in the immediate future.”
But even with that, OPM is encouraging hiring agencies to be more aggressive in leveraging Pathways to bring in new talent. Apparently, as is often the case with new programs, some hiring managers haven’t truly integrated Pathways into staffing strategies, some HR folks need to better understand the program and opportunities it represents themselves, and there’s work to do to ensure candidates even know about the program. While USAJOBS is one way to get on Pathways, the report encourages hiring managers to use funding to better advertise the program, and OPM is launching webinars to bring agency human-resourcers up to speed.
To be sure, just thinking about the bureaucratic hurdles over which you have to leap to land a government job can be confusing, exhausting, and, for some, a complete turnoff. And the hiring process, still today, is sluggish compared to some private sector resourcing. But on the other end of that suffering is a job with unmatched stability, growth potential, benefits, and opportunities for periodic refreshing transfers to a variety of professional experiences without ever leaving the broader organization.
Good luck. It’s worth the work.