New regs to improve hiring of college grads

Wednesday - 5/4/2011, 7:29am EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The Office of Personnel Management is close to finishing regulations to change how the agencies bring on college graduates.

OPM Director John Berry said Tuesday the draft regulations are going through interagency review process and should be out "soon."

"President Obama's executive order (creates) three clean pathways for students to join the federal government," Berry said during an event in Washington sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service. "We have not gotten the regulations up yet. We are getting this in place. When we do, one of the things most confusing is how do students get in to the federal government? You will either be an intern, a recent graduate and a Presidential Management Fellows."

Berry said the regulations have a complex review process because they must go through all the agencies.

"We've had enough agency involvement that my hope is agency buy-in will be relatively quick and we can get to final regs faster than normal," he said. "They are drafted. It's not like we are just starting, we are finishing."

In addition to the regulations, OPM and the administration are working with Congress to change the law to let employees who want to retire, phase in their exit slowly over time without getting penalized.

"If an employee would work part-time, it would go against their retirement so it's not a smart decision," he said. "What the President would like to do, and it will take legislation, would allow people to work part-time and not be penalized against their retirement. As exchange for that, 30-to-40 percent of time would be committing mentorship to their successor or a newbie. That way we can have a longer knowledge drain or transfer exchange to keep this vibrant."

Berry said he wasn't sure when legislation would come up, but they are encouraging changes.

He said this would be a long-term fix to the brain drain that is expected as more and more federal employees retire over the next five years. Some estimate as many as 50 percent of all federal employees could be eligible to retire by 2016.

The lack of succession planning or knowledge management is a problem for many agencies.

Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood said an organization such as the Partnership for Public Service could help out in the short term by creating a database of retirees and their specific skills.

Additionally, LaHood said he tries to meet with long-time employees before they retire to discuss how, if they want, to continue to help the agency as an annuitant.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said his agency is investing in training and mentoring for managers. He said HUD doubled its training budget this year.

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