The Federal Intern Experience Program has officially kicked off, and agency officials from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), General Services Administration (GSA), and Department of Education offered career advice to the new interns on Tuesday to help them make the most of their experience in the Federal government.

The new intern program supports the “Strengthening and Empowering the Federal Workforce” priority in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) by attempting to improve early-career recruitment and retention for the Federal workforce.

During the program’s August Executive Speaker Series event on August 1, OPM Deputy Director Rob Shriver encouraged the interns to make the most of their experience and to spread the word to their friends back at school about the program.

“We want to ensure that you have professional development opportunities, access to mentors, coaching, training, and more. Your internship should be educational, rewarding, and of course, fun,” Shriver said. “You know, President Biden felt so strongly about this, that he made it part of what’s called the President’s Management Agenda. Having a strong internship program is literally written into his blueprint for how government should run.”

Katy Kale, deputy administrator at GSA, added that as part of the PMA, the Federal government is focused on “attracting, retaining, and advancing the best talent in the country.”

“We’re recruiting the future leaders of tomorrow right now, in giving you the way into making an impact within your government,” Kale told the interns. “We really need your talent, we need your passion, we need your creativity, and we want to offer you opportunities to grow and advance and serve the American people.”

Kale also left the interns with a piece of advice: to remember that “your customers are your North Star.” She explained this means providing customer experience that meets Americans where they are.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona also took the time to offer advice to the Federal interns as they go forward in their professional careers and to answer any questions that they had.

“Don’t limit yourself to your current goals,” he advised. “Don’t think you can predict what’s going to happen 10 years from now. Work hard, stay true to yourself. Continue to believe in yourself. You know, doors may open that you weren’t even expecting because you were so focused on this door.”

Cardona also told the interns that the Department of Education is working hard to support them when it comes to student loans.

In particular, he said his agency is working to develop policies that will hold colleges accountable for their value “for ensuring that students have a pathway to prosperity.”

“We’re working with our colleges, but we’re also calling out colleges or schools that take advantage of students and really sell them on you know, ‘I’m going to give you a bill of goods,’ but when they graduate, they don’t have the skill set or the credentials to get jobs that are high-skill, high-paying jobs,” Cardona said. “So, we’re trying to fix the root of the issue, while also providing targeted debt relief to those who are really struggling.”

He also encouraged the interns to sign up for the beta version of the Biden administration’s new student loan repayment plan application. The beta site is now available at the Federal Student Aid income-driven repayment plan website.

The Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan is an income-driven repayment (IDR) program that pegs a borrower’s monthly payment to their income, lowering their financial burden.

“Over a lifetime, college graduates earn over a million dollars more than students who graduated high school. We want to add to the economy, we know that higher education access will not only improve the life of that student, but for the community they live in,” Cardona said. “Sign up, it’s called SAVE.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.