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PMF and Pathways Programs: Reinventing the Old and Implementing the New- LIVE NOTES!

Sitting here at NAPA headquarters in the same room as OPM Director John Berry and many other influential people in government as well as education.

Stay tuned for notes in an ongoing basis:

Panel Discussion 1- Holding the Pathways Programs Accountable for the Future Leadership and Human Capital Needs of the Federal Gov

“Pathways to the Pathways”

OPM Director- John Berry

-“Thanks” to NASPAA and NAPA- 2 driving forces behind the creation of the original EO

-EO is the starting pistol, not the finish line- we must get this right

-your input today is NOT going to prodce a coffee table book. These will go directly into action

-Rob Shriver- director of Pathways regulation. Basically the one who will actually write these ideas/regulations

-“Our recruitment and hiring program was broken”

-New focus on Vets- have done great with agencies like DoD and VA. Civilian agencies not so much- usually less than 5%

-Moving away from KSA towards competitive resumes

-no more 75 page position descriptions- goal of 2-3 pages

-Overarching goal of an 80 day hiring process! (current is average of 100 days)

-Discriptions in the past have been too confusing, discouraging students and those looking to get into gov

-3 simply methods

–1- Students

–2- Recent Grads

—–for those who have a degree but don’t have the “experience” to get into gov

—–Vets will have a 6 year window after degree.

–3- PMF

—–couldn’t stand to lose. Everyone really wanted to keep it.

-“don’t grow so fast that you lose quality”

-FBI example- bring in MBA grads and each one is paired with a senior manager as a mentor program. The MBA new hires are treated like a “class” and given special attention. “Why can’t we do that in more agencies”

-“we are going to take a much more aggressive approach to this [the regulation drafting process]”

—going to use technology and social media to get feedback and input- this meeting will not be your final chance to contribute

-today, the workforce is less than a tenth “blue-collar”

-federal contracting has going from 300 bil. to 800 bil. since 2006

-this growth needs new, and great talent

-we need to slow that retirement wave- tough to keep up with in terms of hiring, especially now.

—-how about a part time program for retirees? When the retirement date comes, they move to part time for a specified transition period. During that period serve as a mentor

Don Kettl- U of MD

-GAO list of ‘at kisk’ gov programs- majority of them are, at the core, human capital issues

-20% of federal spending goes to medicare and medicaid- managed by only .2% or federal employees- scary thought

Paul Posner- George Mason

-students will be lured away by the private sector in this economy- unless we make this work

-competition of MPP and MPA in the non-profit and consulting fields especially

-we will need much better metrics (OPM?) to make these new programs work

-largely, the success of these upcoming regulations will be on the back of the agencies- they need to step in and research student bases and aggressively implement. Set up shop on target campuses.

-Need very clear performance measures

-More transparency=more trust and respect from the general public. There needs to be that link!

-Not only stakeholders and public need to be engaged, but all the feds in the lower levels of agencies and field offices- how much input really is coming from people outside DC

-we need more meaningful internships opportunities

-increased challenge now because of fiscal uncertainty and threat of high retirement rates- now is the time to invest in people- the best and brightest. Just like Cybersecurity and DoD funding (didn’t get cut, but slightly increased)- human capital investment needs the same urgency!

Panel 2- Challenges in the Existing Federal Hiring Process

-150,000 full time fed employees hired every year by OPM

-agencies need to figure out where and who they want to hire- what type of people, credentials, etc.

-univ. career services leaders need to connect with agency officials

-universities should survey their students- who got fed jobs and how? who didn’t get a fed job and why? Find a meaningful way to implement that feedback

-eliminate KSAs- they discourage talented people right off the bat b/c of beurocracy

-transcripts early in hiring process also discourage b/c it can take time- need to be more accommodating

-economic hardships only slow retirement wave by a few months

-Students want to work for the fed gov, but have mixed feelings about the process- too convoluted, complex, lengthy, opaque, etc.- but people still want to work for gov!

-institutionalization- it needs to be more than just a paper that gets filed away. Become a part of the agency operations and univ. recruitment

-students need to be (and presumably will be) a part of shaping these programs- taking it to the campuses

-gov hires 60,000 interns per year, but how many actually know that?- we need a better method of opportunity deliverance- usajobs doesn’t post all internship opportunities.

-managers need to be held accountable for the type of people they hire

-GAO seems to be the poster child for gov-univ. relations

-what of a decentralized portal on the internet (separate from usajobs) specifically for internships

how can we (as a GovLoop community) fix this problem? We have a unique space for problem solving- figure out the issues/problems then discuss real solutions to offer OPM and others.

Panel 3- Federal Agencies’ Human Capital Needs and Routes of Entry


-plan, brand, monitor, develop [people]- GAO plan of attack

-recruiting (from GAO perspective) is not a one-size-fits-all approach. 65% of selected schools (about 70 total) are engaged virtually. The rest are tailored through more personal means based on the specialty of the school.

-need to have a broader perspective- increased hiring should not be a reaction to retirement happening now. Look at least 5 years down the road.

-PMFs aren’t the end-all-be-all of an agency. Just because they’re PMFs doesn’t mean they’re above doing the hard, grunt work.

-need a database of consistent skill sets required by various agencies

-change the testing process for fed emplyment- make it more practical. How well do they think and understand/solve problems?

-TIMING- grads are going to private sector b/c it’s faster- agencies should act earlier in the students educational process

-agencies need to pay better attention to lists like “Top 10 Gov places to work”- why wouldn’t you want to increase your ranking?


-at a minimum, a cap [on new hires under Pathways] must be flexible. Ideally, there would be none…

-adjust cap annually by agency. Not easy to do, but most likely necessary

-Pathways has to be easy for agencies to use- consider why agencies hire so heavily from current fed employee pool- b/c it’s easy

-alternative to caps- hold managers stringently accountable for results as well as development opportunities for new hires

-what are these programs if not work-arounds for processes already in place (i.e. usajobs)? No agency really wants to deal with all the red tape. That’s one of the core issues.

-excepted hiring, does NOT mean excepted from being of a competitive nature (contrary to popular belief)


-PMF- 4 issues- Timing (needs to be earlier) and Assessment (needs to be difficult and very selective) and Size (needs to stay small-elite even) and Connectivity (needs to correlate in some way with the Pathways program as a whole).

-Abuse of FCIP- unfounded in relation to students and recent grads. If abuse happened, it was relative to other hires not in that category.

-3 words of the day- “Make it [both PMF and Pathways Programs] useful”

-need to find a way to summarize and present findings (today and future) to OPM

-need diversity of sources for input

Thank you one and all for following along! This is such an important topic, and this meeting of change-makers today is just the beginning. GovLoop is a unique place with the special opportunity to have meaningful impact in this arena. Please check back on GovLoop for more discussions and blogs on this topic. I’m sure there will be more to come!

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Daniel Honker

Director Berry mentioning using social media to expand the reach for input into these changes. Would love to hear more about that…

Andrew Krzmarzick

Jeff – I see Daniel mentioned something about Berry citing the need for social media…any way that GovLoop can fill that need in specific ways?

Jeff Ribeira

I definitely think so. There was actually a lot of talk about collaboration across a variety of organizations and institutions. It would appear they really want input not only from those drafting the policies, but from those who will be affected by it (students, recent grads, anyone looking to get into gov…).

Daniel Honker

Input from students and job-seekers would be invaluable. Like Jeff and I were talking about today, they’ve got good ideas from the user end of the process, e.g., the timeline pressures from other firms and nonprofits that are recruiting for interns

Jenna Moran

Jeff, It was great to meet you and Tarryn at today’s event! And thanks for taking down these notes — very helpful!

David Dean

You have ignored us, preference eligible veterans. Rest assured anything that is decided behind closed doors will be subjected to a dose of sunshine by MSPB appeals and Court of Appeals decisions. Veteran preference law may be ignored, but they will be ignored in public. You are not going to get the statutes revoked. Pathways has already been challenged in MSPB. Remember FCIP? Sudden was it not?

Tony the Tiger

In your discussion conclusions regarding the abuse of the FCIP program someone stated that the abuses were unfounded in relation to students and recent grads. I am sorry but speaking as someone that works for a federal government agency where I witnessed the abuses first hand I must strongly disagree with regard to the abuses of the FCIP. Some offices within the federal government agency for which I work hired a full 65% of their new hires from the FCIP. This is clearly an abuse of the original intent of the program. FCIP was not meant to be the “primary” hiring tool for federal government agencies. Some offices have used it as such. I think we can all appreciate the value of bringing in new fresh minds and eyes into any organization but not at the expense of overlooking qualified more experienced candidates that if they were given the opportunity to compete for the same positions that FCIP candidates fill would provide higher quantity and quality of services due to their qualifications and experience, this includes U.S. Veterans as well. There should be a 15-20% cap on the number of Pathways hires that any office can hire. To hire a majority of one’s staff that compromises inexperienced recent college graduates can be harmful to the public in the type of work that federal employees do. That is why it is important for the new Pathways hires to be paired up with experienced workplace colleagues. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of FCIP in the Pathways program, we need to learn from our mistakes.

Jeff Ribeira

Great feedback “Tony.” Just to clarify (I was taking these notes down pretty quickly, so I apologize for the lack of explanation or analysis) I believe what you are talking about was a concern expressed by many that day. As for the comment on abuse, I believe the person was speaking to the idea that specifically students and recent grads were the targets of abuse, and that there was no “clear” evidence that this was the case. So, that is of course not to say or deny that others did experience unfair treatment because of the FCIP. In fact, it was a pretty hot topic during the discussion, and one of the primary pitfalls that they’re trying to avoid with the Pathways program. As John Berry stated at the very opening of the meeting, “Our recruiting and hiring program (FCIP, ect.) was broken.” I completely agree with you that no hiring program or regulation should circumvent the competitive process, and having the majority of one’s new hires being young and having little professional experience is probably not the wisest direction to take. However, there always needs to be balance, and that’s where the real struggle is. On the one hand you have students and recent grads saying they can’t get hired because of mid-level professionals and vets, and on the other you have mid-level professionals and vets saying they can’t get hired because of students and recent grads. But you need both (I suppose we should throw in senior level execs and near-retirees too) in order to have an effective, balanced and sustainable workplace! In an ideal world, there of course wouldn’t be any need for caps and regulations since there would be no abuse, and everything would be inherently fair and balanced, but I think your suggestions for percentage caps and guided mentoring programs are great options for the type real-world, practical fixes we need!