New policies to open up federal internship programs

Thursday - 2/2/2012, 8:25pm EST

Two new policies could bring structure and transparency to the confusing web of agency internship programs, according to their supporters.

The Federal Internship Improvement Act, which was passed in December, requires agencies to designate an internship coordinator. The Office of Personnel Management must also put information about the procedures and application deadlines online.

"Agencies all run their programs in different ways and it can be confusing for students who aren't familiar with the federal bureaucracy," OPM Deputy General Counsel for Policy Rob Shriver told Federal News Radio. "Having one point of contact is a really good idea,"

From the government's perspective, "you don't want the process to be a barrier to getting a good candidate in," he added.

Meanwhile, OPM is finalizing regulations for Pathways, President Barack Obama's answer to the defunct Federal Career Internship Program.

The new program, which outlines three career paths for college students, recent graduates and advanced-degree candidates, will be available in May, Shriver said.

The two policies "mesh very nicely" and should help agencies reach a more diverse pool of candidates, he said.

The proposed Pathways regulations require agencies to post internship information on USAJobs.gov, the federal hiring website that OPM administers. "It's a requirement that's not currently in place," Shriver said.

"We've heard anecdotes about problems with internship programs and problems with people finding where those internships are," he said. "We just think that being transparent and having the information on our website open to everybody will be better for the government. It's better for the students. It results in more competition among people who are interested in internship opportunities and we think, overall, it's the fairer approach to go with here."

OPM is still finalizing regulations for Pathways. During last fall's public comment period, the government's largest federal union said the program would circumvent standard hiring procedures.

The National Treasury Employees Union has called for a cap on the number of hires under the program.

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