OPM lays new path for intern, hiring programs

By Meg Beasley
Federal News Radio

Agencies now have a road map to begin the transition to the Pathways Program, a new process for recruiting and hiring students and recent graduates that replaces the Federal Career Internship Program.

The Office of Personnel Management released a memo this week outlining initial steps agencies should take to prepare for the restructuring of programs for intern and entry-level recruiting and hiring.

The memo follows the December 27 executive order outlining the new program. The administration said the order will establish a comprehensive structure to help the government compete with the privates sector in hiring new talent.

The Pathways Program will consolidate student and recent graduate programs into one framework with three career paths.

  • Internship Program – OPM will merge all existing internship opportunities into one program aimed only at students currently enrolled in an educational institution. The order requires the students be referred to as interns and that they be given “meaningful developmental work.”
  • Recent Graduates Program – This new program will target recent graduates and requires that they apply within two years of receiving their degree. Graduates who serve in the military after graduation will have six years to apply. Agencies will place graduates in a two-year career development program after which they will be considered for career position.
  • Presidential Management Fellows Program – Aimed at advanced degree candidates, this program will become more “student friendly” through an expanded eligibility window for applicants.

The executive order also eliminates the Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP), effective March 1. Though the new program will not be effective until regulations have been finalized following a public comment period, OPM encourages agencies to begin preparing for the transition now.

Agencies must:

  • Designate a Pathways program officer by Feb. 10. The officer will administer the program, serve as the liaison to OPM, and report to OPM on the implementation of the program and the individuals hired under it. Agencies can decide whether to create a new position or assign the function as collateral duties to an existing position.
  • Begin to assess the status of employees hired under the Presidential Management Fellows program, the Student Career Experience Program and the Student Temporary Employment Program. These programs will remain in effect until regulations to implement the Pathways are finalized and become effective. As such, agencies may continue to hire through them. Meanwhile, OPM is drafting regulations around how to transition employees when these programs are terminated. Agencies will have the opportunity to comment on the regulations before they are finalized.
  • Assess the status of employees appointed under FCIP. Agencies with incumbent FCIP employees must convert them to career-conditional or career positions in the competitive service. The memo laid out specifics regarding this transition based on amount of service completed. Employees who will complete their service before March 1 should be considered for conversion to the competitive service. Agencies should decide before March 1 if employees who have completed more than one year of service have satisfied criteria for conversion. Employees who have served less than one year must serve the remainder of their probationary period in the competitive service.

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