A Promising Path to IT Talent

New program for hiring students and recent grads could help federal recruiters.

Agencies on Tuesday can begin hiring students and recent college graduates under the new Pathways programs, and many are sure to use those new hiring authorities to attract and retain recent graduates in mission critical jobs like information technology, one expert said Tuesday.
“Agencies will be able to go after some of the best IT talent coming out of the universities,” said John Palguta, vice president for policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. “Up until now, it’s involved such a convoluted process, I’m not confident that agencies have been able to get their fair share of the best IT talent. I think [the Pathways programs] will definitely help in that regard, and I’m hoping agencies are planning to make good use of the programs in particular for the IT community.”
The Pathways programs offer tracks for students in high school, undergraduate or graduate programs as well as recent graduates. Participants are hired under a newly created Schedule D of the excepted service, allowing for more flexibility in hiring while still preserving veterans' preference. The programs also require agencies to make meaningful assessments of participants before converting them to permanent positions in the competitive service.

The internship track of the program replaces existing internship programs and is targeted toward students in educational institutions from high school to the graduate level. The recent graduates track requires candidates to apply for a job within two years of completing their academic degree.

The proposal also beefs up the Presidential Management Fellows program by expanding the eligibility window for applicants and making it more student friendly by aligning it with academic calendars.
Palguta said that many agencies have been frustrated for a while that they have not been able to attract and hire the right candidates, in part because the hiring process typically only allows them access to experienced workers. “Agencies have been looking forward to this as a way to balance their intake,” he said.
Another challenge with previous intern programs, Palguta added, was that they did not allow for agencies to convert successful interns into full-time positions. The new Pathways programs enable agencies to hire successful interns after they have completed 640 hours on the job, or 320 hours on the job if they have demonstrated exceptional performance or academic excellence.
“We have long advocated at the Partnership that agencies need to make better use of intern programs as an intake vehicle,” Palguta said. “Now, every student intern the government hires under this Pathways program is a potential part of the talent pool down the road.”