When many people think of an intern, descriptors like fresh out of college, young and inexperienced come to mind. Those descriptions fit many interns, but they can also be veterans, people looking to change careers, or people with disabilities.
Recent changes to the definition of “intern” have altered what that means for employees, supervisors and potential hires.
President Barack Obama signed the order that established the Pathways Program in December 2010. The program provides federal employment opportunities to degree-seeking students taking at least a halftime course load in an accredited high school, technical or vocational school, or college. After they finish their academic and work experience requirements, students may be noncompetitively converted to term, career or career-conditional appointments.
Officially referred to as “Pathways for Students and Recent Graduates to Federal Careers” on the Defense Logistics Agency Human Resources website, Pathways consists of three programs: the Internship Program, the Presidential Management Fellows Program and the Recent Graduates Program.
“With the passage of Pathways, [the Office of Personnel Management] required all the agencies to use internship in the titling of their program for their current students,” said Char Swingle, a human resources specialist with DLA Human Resources Policy.
The Internship Program, whose participants are referred to as interns, is the avenue for students enrolled in educational institutions. It replaces the Student Temporary Employment Program and the Student Career Experience Program and is officially called the DLA Pathways Internship Program.
“Basically the STEP and SCEP names are gone; they’re now called interns,” said Pam Latker, chief of the Career Management Division at DLA Training.
The Recent Graduates Program is aimed at those who have recently graduated from qualifying educational institutions. Along with competitive examining, merit promotion and special hiring authorities such as the veterans and disabled authorities, the Recent Graduates Program will be used to fill DLA’s Pathways to Career Excellence Program, formerly the DLA Corporate Intern Program.
The final rule implementing the Pathways programs was effective July 10. With the law now in effect, DLA Human Resources has made significant progress in implementing it, Swingle said.
DLA’s SCEP program gave Douglas Rakestraw his first position in the federal government as a document automation specialist in DLA Document Services in 2010. Currently a career employee, he credits that internship for exposing him to different parts of DLA.
“It was interesting when I first started, because they moved me around a lot,” he said. “I did different things here and there for the first year. In the last year and a half, I’ve done more specific, more set, jobs where I’m there for a longer period of time. Because they moved me around a lot, it gave me more opportunities to figure out what I could do and helped me get an idea of what I actually want to do.”
Rakestraw, 26, who graduated last year with an associate’s degree in electrical information technology, plans to continue his education.
“Right now, I’m still doing a variety of things,” he said. “I’m running some technical stuff on a server to get stuff out to our production area; I do some billing, plus some technical projects, etc. I want to eventually shift into something else, like project management.
Arina Zaitseva, a contracting trainee in the intern program at DLA Document Services, has been in the SCEP program for a couple of months. She is pursuing a business minor as an addition to her bachelor’s degree in psychology and researched DLA before applying for an internship.
“DLA is a forward-thinking organization,” she said. “It’s global, worldwide and very big. They’ve given me a rotation in different departments, from broad to specific, which has given me options. I have some room to decide, and there’s lots of movement.”
Zaitseva said DLA’s emphasis on education is what attracted her to a career with the agency.
“It’s a good environment; they value education and support you to get more education,” she said. “I’m getting my extra education just for this. With the intern program, I’ve broadened my knowledge of DLA, got more in-depth on what DLA does, how it operates, and I recommend internships to my friends.”
Latker said internships can provide a ladder to other career opportunities.
“There are people out there who say, ‘I want to do other things and broaden my experiences,’” Latker said. “Those are the ones who tend to get other experiences and tend to move up much faster because they’re willing to do those kinds of things to grow.”
The Pathways Programs assist students from high school, post-graduate school and recent graduates and provides meaningful training and career development opportunities for individuals at the beginning of their federal service. For more information on Pathways opportunities, visit: https://my.usajobs.gov/StudentsAndGrads