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GovLoop Project of the Week: NNSA Summer Student Intern Program

Led by John Barry at the US Office of Personnel Management, the Federal government intends to make significant strides toward streamlining the hiring process in the near term. In the meantime, intern programs remain one of the most effective ways for agencies to attract and get acquainted with potential employees. USAJobs.gov has a lengthy list of “special programs that can be used for hiring in all Federal agencies” and the “Making a Difference” website (tied to the Partnership for Public Service Call to Serve initiative) highlights several other options.

Then there are agencies like the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that have crafted their own version of this valuable recruitment strategy. NNSA’s Summer Student Intern Program is designed to bring together students from diverse backgrounds who are completing various educational experiences to learn and hone skills necessary to be agile and productive employees in a new and growing global economy. The Program helps students engage and contribute in a meaningful way to the work of various NNSA organizations by introducing them to NNSA organizational elements and providing them opportunities to work side-by-side with NNSA leaders and sponsors


To help the students maximize their opportunity to learn and grow both personally and professionally, NNSA has created the NNSA Student Learning Academy (known as The Academy).

The Academy has four distinct components that enhance and facilitate learning:

• Life Skills Workshops
• Action Learning Teams – Team Projects
• Learning Exchange with Leaders
• Group Engagement

Life Skills Workshops:

The workshops are designed to present topics that are relevant for personal growth and success in government, non-profit and private sector organizations. The workshops designed by the NNSA Leadership Academy include:

> Stretching The Dollar – students are given information to help them navigate the world of credit, loans, and investments and gain a better understanding of sound financial management.
> Understanding/Utilizing Your Network – helping students to understand the importance of professional networks, how to develop and utilize your network, and the student’s responsibility to maintain the network.
> Discover Your Strengths – creates the opportunity for students to identify their talents; build them into strengths and enjoy consistent best possible performance.
> Negotiating Is Not A Fight – how success is directly related to the outcome of negotiations and the outcome of negotiations as an agreement.

Action Learning Teams:

NNSA student interns are required to participate in one of three Action Learning Teams: Engineering, Business and General. The teams are guided by an NNSA Project Sponsor, and asked to select and work on a “real world” NNSA challenge that fits into one of the three areas. Over the course of 8-10 weeks, the students work as a group to understand the challenge, identify solutions, identify processes to implement the solutions, and put together a closing ceremony presentation delivered to NNSA management and their peers.

Learning Exchange with Leaders:

This interactive group activity is designed to give students an open forum to receive relevant career planning advice from senior leaders in the NNSA. The intent of this exchange is to provide advice to students that will help identify and secure appropriate career paths for the future. NNSA leaders share tacit knowledge and highlights of their career path. The initiative will encourage dialogue to share ideas and processes.

Group Engagement:

Generational Differences Interactive Learning Workshop – Today there are more than four generations in the workplace, all trying to work on the same projects, at the same time, focused on achieving the same result. Without greater understanding of generational differences, office conflict can occur and negatively impact productivity. This workshop helps students gain a basic understanding of how individuals from different generations approach/think about communications, leadership, learning, project management, political savvy, and the importance of experience versus competency. By increasing their generational competence, students will be able to expedite their effectiveness as employees and leaders.


NNSA added a new component to the program this year entitled Hospitality. We have a scheduled Calendar of Activities centered around those events that take place “after hours” and on the weekend. These events afford the opportunity for students to get together and socialize as well as networking with one another.

Welcome and Closing Ceremonies:

Our ceremonies are designed to welcome new and returning interns to the NNSA; meet new students and learning about the program; our closing ceremony gives NNSA the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments by the students and the time and effort expended by our program and project sponsors to help mentor and develop the students while working in their organizations.

The overarching goal for The Academy is to expose interns to a series of learning engagements that will enhance a student’s professional experience, and better prepare themselves for career choices in the government, non-private sector, or private industry. NNSA believes that a student should expect a comprehensive experience that has an immediate utility.

If you know about other great agency internship programs, please share them here so that we can replicate them across government.

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What a fantastic program. I like that it incorporates more than just a job. Especially the life skills piece is great.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks, Steve. Actually, I am delivering the “Understanding/Utilizing Your Network” for the program this Thursday. I will be sure to mention GovLoop as a great place to network!