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Summer Update: PMF Program Changes Afoot

This is the slow season in the life of a blog like this, but occasionally things do happen that are worth noting. Before getting to the big stuff, though, I figure it’s worth providing a quick update.

First, I should point out that there are 327 listed PMF hires to date. I have no idea how that compares to previous years, unfortunately, but considering the historical placement rates have fallen between 40 and 60 percent of finalists, we can expect something like 340 to 510 to be placed out of this class. Anecdotes from people who can’t find a placement aside, 327 seems to be a good number at a point approximately 1/3 of the way through the placement cycle. More positions will undoubtedly appear, so if you haven’t secured anything yet, just give it some time.

Second, it’s almost time for the next class to apply. OPM plans to open up the 2012 program sometime in September. As I did last year, I will write a post about the program with updated statistics and description. It would be helpful if any of you who have already been placed would submit your experiences with the program so far, especially where the initial application is concerned.

And finally, OPM has submitted its proposed rule changes to the Federal Register to amend its Pathways Program, which includes the PMF program. The biggest change I see so far in my reading of the proposed regulation is the widening of the application window to two years. That is, anyone who completed a graduate degree within the last two years would be eligible to apply. There are other important changes, though, so for a more thorough highlighting, read below.

PMF Program Revisions Highlighted

  1. No More Nominations – The proposed regulation removes the requirement for college or university staff to perform the nomination action. This step of course removes the burden from nominating officials who may be less connected to PMF aspirants in future classes, because up to two years may have passed since the last interaction between the PMF hopeful and the nominating official.
  2. Apply Again – As long as someone falls within the two year window outlined by the regulation, there is nothing prohibiting people from applying again if they were unsuccessful the first time around. So those of you on the finalist list right now who haven’t been placed yet might get another chance or two to apply. This is a pretty significant structural change, but I suspect most programs have to deal with repeat applicants. And who knows? Perhaps an extra year working will be the thing that gives you an edge over other finalists.
  3. “Interactive” instead of Classroom Training – OPM is clarifying the language surrounding the training to emphasize that delivery methods other than instructor-led classroom training can fulfill the annual training requirements. Frankly, this is long overdue. We’re in an age where the most efficient delivery methods for focused training are internet-based, and while there is definitely value to be found in classroom training, it should be limited to situations that warrant it. This will probably go a long way toward making the program more palatable to agencies, since there is a great deal of decent-quality online training that was of dubious value to PMFs given the earlier requirement that they can now use.
  4. SES Mentors – The new rules would require agencies that hire PMFs to match them up with a mentor at the Senior Executive Service level. Overall, this is probably a good thing. I learned a great deal from those SES with whom I have served.
  5. Rotation Adjustments – The program still includes provisions for a 4-6 month developmental assignment, but OPM has included some intriguing language about the viability of agency-wide, Presidential or Administration initiatives for use as developmental activities. I can imagine some potential applications of this, but would be interested in what any of you think about it.

Those were the major points I found in the document after scanning through it. Give it a read and let us all know what else you find in it.

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David Kuehn

Staffing agency-wide or multi-agency initiatives is a great use of and opportunity for PMFs. They are difficult for people who already have full portfolios of work to take on; they require a lot of energy and independence; and they provide great opportunities for learning about and meeting people from different programs and agencies. I served on both during my two years working on an empowerment zone conference and the start up of two new grant programs.