The Department of Justice is looking for a policy analyst intern. The U.S. Forest Service wants an intern for physical sciences. And the Veterans Health Administration is seeking student nurse technicians.
These are just a handful of the opportunities that agencies have already posted to a new internship portal on USA Jobs, the government’s interagency job board. The Office of Personnel Management launched the central landing page for federal internships on Feb. 16.
The “one-stop shop” internship portal is intended to give agencies more avenues to recruit talent for their teams, and to centralize the search and application process for prospective interns, OPM said.
“Federal internships offer a critical pathway into government and public service,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in a press statement. “A federal internship is a great way to start your career in public service and make an impact in your community.”
Agencies have so far listed 141 separate opportunities on the new portal, and Ahuja said more opportunities will be going live every week.
The portal lets students and other early-career individuals sift through federal internship openings by agency, salary, location — including remote openings — and more.
There is a mix of both paid and unpaid listings, although the Biden administration has called for more paid internship opportunities, wherever possible. The administration has said that paying interns will reduce barriers for low-income students and first-generation professionals, and give them opportunities to take on federal internships, and ultimately increase the diversity of federal intern cohorts. Last year, the White House, for the first time ever, paid all of its own interns.
Launching the USA Jobs internship portal was another step from OPM and the Biden administration to try to revamp the federal internship program, and by extension, early-career hiring for the federal government. The new portal builds on the Biden administration’s goal of hiring 35,000 interns during fiscal 2023.
Although there were 35,000 interns governmentwide in 2010, the federal internship program has shrunk in more recent years. In 2018, there were just 4,000 interns across all agencies.
The push to expand internship programs, as well as early-career hiring, comes as just 7% of the federal workforce is under age 30, and about 30% of the governmentwide workforce will be eligible for retirement in less than five years.
The portal also builds on other efforts from OPM, including giving agencies guidance on how to expand paid opportunities for interns and early-career employees. The guidance, which OPM and the Office of Management and Budget released jointly last month, detailed strategies and best practices for agencies to better hire, incentivize and retain early-career federal employees, including interns, fellows and apprentices.
“The number of interns in the federal government has decreased significantly over the past 10 years. One of the most impactful ways to rebuild the federal government’s lagging early career talent pipeline is to revive federal internship programs,” OPM and OMB said in the guidance.
The guidance additionally emphasized the Biden administration’s goal to broaden paid federal internship opportunities. At the same time, OPM said agencies should try to decrease their reliance on unpaid internship opportunities.
“By increasing opportunities and removing barriers to hiring interns, fellows and apprentices, federal agencies can boost their talent pipelines and better serve the American people,” Ahuja said in the guidance.
Congress has raised concerns about the federal internship program as well. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) previously introduced legislation to try to fix the program. A bill that Connolly led in 2021 would have created a new Federal Internship and Fellowship Center inside OPM to centrally manage and promote all government intern programs. But the bill was ultimately not considered in the full House.
In addition to launching the new portal, OPM is working on other ways to encourage more individuals to apply for federal internships. For example, the agency hosted a webinar with former interns from NASA, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The panel showed participants in the live online event how to use the internship portal and submit their applications.