EPA targeting higher recruitment numbers for 2024

EPA has launched a hiring campaign with the end goal of onboarding 1,000 new full-time employees and 350 interns by the end of the year.

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) looks to hire an additional thousand full-time federal employees, the agency is trying to turn especially toward more diverse and early-career talent.

Beginning last week with a recruitment campaign called “Be EPA,” the agency is firing on all cylinders to boost its staffing numbers — especially as more work piles up from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

“We need talented, diverse, passionate people to join our team, and I know there are young leaders on your campus right now who can step up to the plate,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told college students during a Feb. 5 press conference.

The agency is trying to fill all sorts of positions, including writers, accountants, HR specialists, IT professionals, interdisciplinary scientists, program analysts and much more. The “Be EPA” campaign aimed to give college students and other potential job candidates clearer information on the often long and convoluted federal hiring process.

During a Feb. 7 webinar, with about 2,000 attendees, EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe detailed the steps of applying for an opening on USAJobs: how to create a USAJobs account, how to set up notifications to get alerted on new postings, and what to include in a federal resume.

Detailing how to use USAJobs may be especially helpful for reaching the early-career and diverse talent that EPA desires. Applicants who are not familiar with USAJobs are more prone to making errors on their applications, which could unintentionally lead to a rejection of even a highly qualified candidate.

“USAJobs is not the most user-friendly tool out there, but it’s what we have and it’s what we use,” EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Mission Support Andrew Schreyer said in an interview with Federal News Network. “As we think about breaking down the barriers, there are some folks who have applied to many jobs in the federal government and know how to use the system. But for many folks, especially the students and first-time applicants that we’re trying to reach, they’ve never encountered something like this.”

Since fiscal 2021, EPA’s workforce has been steadily increasing. The agency added 818 new positions between fiscal 2021 to 2023. On top of that, EPA has filled more than 1,300 positions under the infrastructure law and the IRA, which use funding from the legislation, rather than EPA’s appropriated budget.

Now, EPA is hoping to build on that momentum with even bigger hiring plans.

“As successful as we were in hiring a lot of these colleagues, we still have to recruit 400 more of theseo positions this year,” Schreyer said. “And these roles are in addition to the hundreds of others that we’re hiring for with our appropriated dollars.”

But under a continuing resolution, reaching EPA’s hiring goals may be more challenging. The agency is currently operating under its budget from fiscal 2023 of about $10.1 billion. By comparison, the Biden administration proposed a budget of about $12.1 billion for fiscal 2024 — a roughly 19% increase.

At the same time, to try to support plans for the increased hiring, EPA also added 30 new positions to its HR and personnel security staff, agency spokesperson Angela Hackel told Federal News Network. Moving forward, Hackel said EPA will continue to bolster its HR staff, while also turning toward more training for the new employees ahead of the increased recruitment overall.

And by using recruitment software, Schreyer said EPA has been able to reach a much broader range of potential job candidates, including individuals at more minority-serving institutions and professional organizations, as well as student veterans and individuals with disabilities.

“We’re really emphasizing the recruitment of graduates from diverse backgrounds — from all over the place,” Schreyer said. “I’ve always tried to find new ways to eliminate or reduce the barriers to entry for folks. That’s what this campaign is all about — making it easier to get into the federal government. We’re trying to reach people who have been left out previously.”

In addition to the 1,000 full-time hires EPA is trying to make, the agency is also looking to more than double its number of interns this year. The agency aims to recruit 350 by the end of 2024, largely through the Pathways Program. There will be internship openings in all 10 of EPA’s regional offices, as well as in its headquarters office.

For the vast majority of the openings, EPA is hoping to eventually convert the interns into full-time federal employees.

“We want to entice students as young as possible to participate in internships, and co-ops and any kind of learning engagements, so that they can better learn about EPA and position themselves to be competitive for careers here at this agency,” Regan said during the Feb. 5 press conference.

Regan also noted that he began his own federal career as an intern — and that now, he’s both the first Black man and first graduate of a Historically Black College to serve as EPA administrator.

“I share my story not to brag, but because I want young people to understand the opportunities that are possible at this agency,” Regan said.

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