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OPM: New hiring programs to start in July

May. 10, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Final details on how the new hiring programs will work will be published May 11 in the Federal Register, according to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, above.
Final details on how the new hiring programs will work will be published May 11 in the Federal Register, according to Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, above. (Timothy Grant / Office of Personnel Management)

The Office of Personnel Management will officially launch new hiring programs for students and recent college graduates July 10.

The three-tiered Pathways Programs will consist of an Internship Program for current students, a Recent Graduates Program for people who have received a degree in the last two years or veterans who got a degree in the last six years, and the existing Presidential Management Fellows Program.

Final details on how the programs will work will be published Friday in the Federal Register and will take effect 60 days later, OPM Director John Berry told reporters Wednesday.

OPM has shortened the probationary period for those in the Recent Graduates program from two years, as originally proposed, to one year in an effort to address concerns of federal unions.

Robert Shriver, OPM's deputy general counsel for policy, said unions felt it wasn't fair to have those new hires serve under a longer probationary period than employees hired under the standard competitive process.

Some federal managers including former Homeland Security Department Chief Human Capital Officer Jeff Neal told Federal Times they liked the two-year probation that was part of the now-defunct Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP) because it gave them more time to evaluate new employees after their training. Neal said Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officers, for example, require several months of training before they can be properly evaluated.

OPM tried to find a compromise by starting employees who come through the Recent Graduates program with a one-year probation, but only after they finish a structured training program that is specific to their job. Shriver said OPM is now working with agencies on memorandums of understanding that spell out which jobs have training that will require a delayed probationary period.

But Todd Wells, executive director of the Federal Managers Association, said his group still prefers a two-year probation period.

OPM's compromise "leaves a ton of leeway as to when the so-called training is complete," Wells said. "In theory, it would absolutely be fine with managers. But a two-year probationary period simplifies everything for everyone, and there's no misunderstanding for any party as to when [the training] started and was completed."

Managers will need to choose whether to convert a Recent Graduate hire to the competitive service once the probation period is done, and if they do not, the employee will lose his job. Under the standard hiring system, a manager must choose to fire an underperforming new hire before the probation period is done.

Berry said people who graduated from college since December 2010, when President Obama signed an executive order directing Berry to create Pathways, will be grandfathered into the Recent Graduates Program. Their two- or six-year window to apply will begin when the program launches July 10, Berry said.

OPM has the power to set caps on how many people can use Pathways, but Berry said he's not taking that step now partly because he doesn't yet know how many people might be hired under the programs. Berry hopes agencies will start to hire new graduates later this year under Pathways, but expects the program to accelerate in spring 2013.

Berry said agencies must announce Pathways job vacancies on to make sure they are open to all. FCIP was criticized because its vacancies often were not announced on USAJOBS.

Berry stressed that veterans preference rules apply to Pathways job vacancies.

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