Yet Another State Department Hiring Program Is Suspended
A recruiting pipeline for federal agencies is on hold, leaving interns in limbo.
A program designed to bring undergraduate and Master’s students into State Department and other federal government positions following graduation is the latest victim of the Trump administration’s eight-month long hiring freeze.
Participants in the Pathways program were offered jobs in March with the possibility of full-time positions. However, at the end of a three-month period, they found that they would not, in fact, be getting a full-time job.
“The Pathways internship program is currently suspended for converting Pathways interns,” an official involved in the program, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Foreign Policy. “They need to resolve this ASAP. It’s causing a lot of hiccups right now.”
The suspension of the internship program will hit the State Department especially hard after two other similar programs were put on hold. Last month, both the Diplomacy Fellows program and the Presidential Management Fellows program were suspended, Foreign Policy reported previously.
Current and former diplomats say the recent decisions will hamper the department’s ability to recruit and hire promising young talent. Combined with a flurry of retirements by senior foreign service officers and budget pressures, the State Department face a potential personnel shortage.
The Trump administration initiated a hiring freeze on Jan. 23, though it originally exempted military personnel and fellowship programs like Pathways. Yet over the last eight months, a number of fellowships have been put on hold.
The Pathways program’s suspension has caught many off guard. A master’s student in business administration, who requested anonymity for fear of professional repercussions, had a verbal offer for a financial management analyst position at the State Department through the Pathways program — an offer he took over other financial jobs in the private sector. He said he received the offer in March but around graduation in mid-May, he still had not been assigned to a full-time position.
The Human Resources department assured him that his application would be moving forward soon, but by July, officials there became less responsive. On July 18, he finally received an email officially stating that he would not be offered a job due to budgetary and hiring constraints.
“In the past four weeks, each and every one of the people I know from the Pathways program … and had received an offer months ago, contacted me to let me know that their new bureau was now informing them that they would not be able to proceed with their conversion,” said the master’s student.
According to a program coordinator, the suspension is coming from upper management, which explains the freeze as necessary for the “redesign” and downsizing of the State Department. Pathways is continuing to send intern applications to State Department offices, but nothing is moving forward. “I’m still gathering documents,” the program coordinator said. “We’re still sending them but they are just holding them.”
In an address to interns last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that all state fellowship and internship programs would remain in place.
The suspensions are “only a temporary measure so that we could take a thorough accounting of the State Department in consideration of how to best strengthen it and to position ourselves to improve our diversity,” Tillerson said. “Our current fellowships and internships…are necessary to achieving our diversity objective.”
While the programs may eventually go forward, interns counting on jobs have been left hanging.
“They need to just let them know what they are doing and that they are working on resolving it,” the official involved in the Pathways program said. “They need to provide them with a date and they aren’t doing that,” she said. “So we’re all in limbo.”
A State Department spokesperson told FP that it would convert Pathways interns to one year part-time work as part of an “interim solution.” The part-time Pathways employees will receive the same benefits as full time employees, the spokesperson said.
“The State Department highly values the work and contributions of Pathway Interns,” the spokesperson said.
Update, Aug. 22, 2017, 10:58 am ET: This post was updated to include comment from the State Department, and to clarify that the interns will not be getting full-time jobs.