The Office of Personnel Management will take a major step to establishing a new internship and student hiring program Aug. 5 when it releases proposed regulations for its new Pathways Programs.
Pathways, which is intended to replace the now-defunct Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP) and current intern programs, will be a three-tiered method for hiring students and recent graduates noncompetitively. Pathways consists of: an Internship Program for current high school, college, and certain home-schooled students; a Recent Graduates Program for people who have received a degree in the last two years, and the existing Presidential Management Fellows Program.
Veterans who have to complete a period of military service after graduating from college will have six years to apply for the Recent Graduates program.
Agencies will be able to convert a Pathways participant to a permanent federal job if he meets their qualifications, though the program does not guarantee permanent jobs.
“These regulations commit the federal government to two key goals,” OPM Director John Berry said. “First, they require pathways to federal service to be clear and accessible for students and recent graduates. Second, they press us to create a federal culture where agency leadership is actively engaged in recruiting, training and managing top talent.”
OPM will accept public comments on the proposed program until Oct. 4.
The Pathways Programs stem from unions’ successful fight to shut down FCIP, which they said was being misused to sidestep veterans’ preference and other workplace protections. The program was widely used by agencies to hire more than 100,000 new employees, and some managers felt it helped them cut through the government’s sluggish hiring process.
The Merit Systems Protection Board last November ruled FCIP blocked veterans from pursuing federal jobs and ordered it overhauled. President Obama signed an executive order in December shutting down FCIP and creating Pathways to replace it.
MSPB said agencies improperly used FCIP to avoid the legal requirement to notify the public of competitive service jobs, which kept veterans from learning those jobs were open. The new regulations emphasize the importance of transparency, and said positions must be advertised on USAJOBS.gov.
Recent Graduates participants will usually be appointed into GS-9 or lower positions and placed in a two-year career development program.
Recent graduates from science, technology, engineering or mathematics programs can be appointed to GS-11 jobs if they have a Ph.D. or equivalent doctoral degree, and other scientific and professional research positions at the GS-12 level.
The National Treasury Employees Union said it is concerned that, like FCIP, Pathways hires will still be exempted from the competitive service.
The programs “must be very narrowly drawn,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said. “Whether these proposed OPM regulations meet that key requirement has yet to be determined.”