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New law encourages hiring of federal interns

Jan. 3, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was one of the bill's sponsors.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was one of the bill's sponsors. (File photo / Getty Images)

President Obama on Dec. 31 signed a bill that seeks to encourage federal agencies to hire more interns into full-time jobs.

The Federal Internship Improvement Act, which was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act and sponsored by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., requires agencies to appoint an internship coordinator.

The Office of Personnel Management also must post online application deadlines and procedures for each internship program, and the name and contact information for each agency's internship coordinator.

The House-passed version of the bill would have required OPM to create and maintain a centralized database of people who have finished, or are just about to finish, internships with federal agencies and are looking for full-time federal jobs. But that language, as well as several provisions requiring agencies to conduct exit surveys and report on their findings, were stripped in a conference committee with the Senate. In their conference report, lawmakers encouraged OPM to consider the feasibility of developing such a database.

Connolly said in a news release that the government needs to hire more interns to replace the hundreds of thousands of baby boomers who are expected to retire over the next decade, and said his bill will make it easier for agencies to do so.

The Partnership for Public Service in 2007 found that the government hired only 6.6 percent of its interns into full-time jobs a far lower rate than private-sector firms, which the Partnership said often convert half of their interns into permanent employees.

"The current conversion rates are dismal," Connolly said.

Connolly and Bilbray's bill isn't the only improvement to federal intern programs in the works. OPM this spring is expected to launch a new three-tiered hiring program for interns, recent graduates and Presidential Management Fellows, called the Pathways Programs.

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