Recruitment is top of mind for OPM's Kiran Ahuja

"If we want the best talent meeting America's needs, then we need to be smart about creating opportunities for them," Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja said at an event hosted by FCW.

Kiran Ahuja, now OPM director, at her Senate confirmation hearing April 22, 2021

The government's human resources arm is looking to increase the talent streams into government, especially for young professionals, said Office of Personnel Director Kiran Ahuja during a Wednesday FCW event on federal workforce issues.

The need to bring in fresh talent is critical as the number of those eligible to retire has been increasing, Ahuja said. Right now it sits at 15%. At the same time, the number of feds under the age of 30 has stagnated at 8% of the federal workforce.

All this is happening as some agencies are looking to surge staffing already, an effort that could grow at some agencies charged with implementing the $1 trillion infrastructure package signed into law on Monday.

"If we want the best talent meeting America's needs, then we need to be smart about creating opportunities for them," said Ahuja.

"We need to be competitive and generous in our policies for upskilling, workplace flexibilities and quality of life, and we need dedicated focus on strategic human capital support to enact a consistent and cohesive vision for the federal government," she continued.

OPM has already made changes to ease the ability of agencies to hire post-secondary students and college graduates.

The Presidential Management Fellows, regarded as a pipeline into leadership positions in the federal government, is also growing, she said. There was an almost 20% increase last year in applications for fiscal year 2022, Ahuja said, totaling out to over 8,000 applicants.

In coming months, OPM is also going to be reworking the Pathways Program, initiatives meant to bring young talent into government.

"It has had its problems in the past, but we are working very diligently to really kind of perfect around the edges and really increase those numbers and increase the pipeline of early career talent coming into the government," said Ahuja.

Agencies can expect additional guidance on paid internships, she said.

Efforts to bring in more paid interns are something that the Biden administration flagged in its FY 2022 budget proposal, which pointed to a drop from over 60,000 paid internships in government in 2010 to 4,000 in 2020.