Yesterday I attended an event sponsored by NASPAA (The National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration) focused on the “new and improved” Pathways Program designed to better infuse new blood into the federal government workforce.
While there has been an increased interest in government service, due somewhat to the popularity of The West Wing (not kidding) and to a greater extent the recent catastrophes of the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina – getting students excited about a career in government service has been difficult. Only 2.3% of graduates express an interest in government service, only a portion of those are interested in the federal government, only some of those don’t get frustrated by the application process, and if they do manage to get through those hoops – they are stuck in a corner somewhere, told to do their jobs, and fend for themselves.
Robert Shriver, Senior Policy Counsel at OPM, discussed the uphill climb for many of those students and recent grads that were interested in a career in public service. Mr. Shriver outlined the three elements of the Pathways Program. The Presidential Management Fellow (check out GovLoop’s PMF Guide) is the flagship program that has been around since the 1970s. The PMF is for graduate students, a fairly elite and selective program that only a chosen few (after a rigorous process) get into.
The two other programs are newly developed. One is targeted at current students. The internship program is for students who are currently in high school, undergrad, trade school, community college, graduate, or getting their doctorate. The second is for recent graduates. This could be any higher education degree: undergraduate, graduate, associates, etc. The purpose of these programs is to infuse more interested talent into the federal workforce that does not involve an overly complicated system.
The second part of these programs is to insure that once this new talent comes in that they are given the skills and experience they need to be successful. This will be largely done by new systems of training, career development and mentorship. Mentorship is key to the retention of these promising public servants, because it will encourage them to continue in a government career – as well as instill the value of mentorship for them, so that they will mentor someone someday. The private sector already has these systems in place and so it continues to attract and retain incredible talent.
It is also important to note that these programs will be available to students across the nation, not just in DC. It was interesting for me personally to hear these programs outlined. It made me revisit the idea of a career in federal government. Although, I am still leaning towards local government. For those who are seriously considering it, especially if they are graduating this May – I hope this gives you some things to think about.