The White House Office of Personnel Management is making the internship search easier with a new portal for prospective interns to find and apply for internships with the federal government.
On any given day, there are on average 23,000 federal work opportunities listed on USA Jobs, a fraction of which are targeted at early-career applicants and college students and, thus, may be hard to find. Before the new site launched on Feb. 16, users were able to filter jobs by experience level to help tease out programs specifically for students, paid and unpaid. The new site automatically aggregates internship postings in one place, though it may not be an exhaustive list.
“Federal internships offer a critical pathway into government and public service,” said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja in a statement.
USA Jobs has been the government’s digital “help wanted” board since 1996, but it was been criticized over the years for being cumbersome to use and hard to search, thereby throwing up roadblocks for young people to get hired into government. Many college career advisers and students use USA Jobs as a primary source of information on federal work. OPM has upgraded the site with tweaks over the years based on feedback to fortify it as one section of the talent pipeline.
“Overall is there a better way that we can present internship opportunities and make it easier for folks who apply, for them to hear back? I think that’s another conversation that needs to happen,” said Carlos Mark Vera, executive director of Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit that lobbies the government for paid internships.
More than 500 federal agencies use USA Jobs to post openings for a range of work from entry-level to the executive suite. In 2019, USA Jobs was searched by users more than 1.4 billion times.
The tool may help agencies make progress on their goals to recruit younger people into the federal government, which for several White House administrations has been a priority. Having a user-friendly, practical job board can help, but as Jeff Neal, the former chief human capital officer for the Department of Homeland Security, wrote on his blog, “posting on USAJobs or any other job site is not active recruiting.”
“Why we don’t see young people coming into government is because they don’t understand it, they can’t get through USA Jobs,” said Michelle Amante, vice president of federal workforce programs for the Partnership for Public Service in a January interview with Federal Times. “Once they join an agency, they’re left to their own devices without community. And all of these factors continue to contribute to why it remains that less than 7% of the federal workforce [is] under 30.”
The internship portal is one of several initiatives the White House has taken so far in 2023, and more are coming. Last month, OPM and OMB issued guidance encouraging agencies to increase the number of interns and early career hires, with an emphasis on decreasing reliance on unpaid internships.
The 2034 omnibus spending bill also included language establishing the first-ever intern resources office in the House of Representatives and more than doubled the amount of funding for paid internships in some agencies.
OPM is also expected to review regulations guiding the Pathways Program in a forthcoming Notice for Proposed Rulemaking.
Browse the portal here.
Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.