OPM begins Pathways education campaign

The Office of Personnel Management has heard the complaints over the last two years about the Pathways internship program. It’s difficult to use. The pool of candidates is too large and too varied.

So OPM now is seeking to educate and inform hiring managers about the best ways to use the Pathways program.

Katherine Archuleta, the director of OPM, said the agency is kicking off an effort to create a handbook for hiring managers as one of several ways to improve the Pathways program.

“We are doing training with the HR managers, and these types of conferences will be more frequent, because we’ve heard back from the Pathways interns and fellows that this is something they really want to see and help them build their careers and to really explore, as they are serving in the government, they want to know how they can stay,” Archuleta said after she spoke at the 2014 Pathways Day in Bethesda, Maryland. “It’s relationship building. We are being able to experience these interns and fellows and college graduates, and they are able to experience us, and developing that relationship, we are able to talk more about in conferences like this.”

The day-long conference focused entirely on the interns and fellows, helping them to ensure they got the most out of their experience.

But surveys and studies have shown over the last two years that hiring managers are frustrated with the Pathways program.

A May survey of the 62 chief human capital officers and other federal HR leaders by the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton found 47 percent said they are not using the Pathways program or using it only to a limited extent. Meanwhile, 33 percent said they are using Pathways to a moderate extent, and only 20 percent said they are using Pathways to a great or very great extent.

The comments in the survey also tell the frustrations of CHCOs about using Pathways. HR leaders who were using the program rated as poor, on average, the degree to which the Pathways programs were meeting their needs. The survey stated the most repeated criticism stemmed from one particular item — the requirement mandating that agencies accept applications from all sources, regardless of agency need or circumstance.

Additionally, the annual Employee Viewpoint Survey found employees under 30-years-old want more opportunities to improve their skillsets and be innovative.

Archuleta said OPM is listening.

“As you participate in your Pathways internship or recent graduate program or Presidential Management Fellows program, I hope that we are able to give you the tools you need to have a successful and fulfilling career, and maybe leave you inspired about a career in public service,” she said. “We are looking closely at all of our Pathways programs and working to educate hiring managers and human resource professionals about how we can make better use your talents.”

The handbook is a key ingredient to improving agency use of Pathways.

Kimberly Holden, OPM’s deputy associate director for recruitment and hiring, said the handbook would be a comprehensive tool for hiring managers when they hire someone under a Pathways program.

“It will provide a series of checklists depending on the type of position they’d like to fill. It will give them additional information on how to proceed with recruitment or outreach to different colleges or universities or schools. It will give them information on how to develop their participant agreement, how to develop their individual development plan and how to prepare the student for the beginning and the end of their internship,” Holden said. “This is a joint project between OPM, the Partnership for Public Service as well as all the CHCO agencies will be able to provide volunteers to help develop these types of tools.”

Holden said OPM expects version one of the handbook to be ready in the February timeframe, while other tools such as videos to give brief information on how the processes work are planned for development after January.


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