Across America, community and public service partnerships are having a positive impact on our economic recovery.
I saw this in Iowa last week, when I addressed the First Friday Club, a monthly gathering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) residents from the Des Moines area. Over the course of the last year, this community has raised over $25,000 to award as college scholarships to local high school students who are working to combat homophobia in their schools.
Not only do these scholarships support important work to improve our schools and communities, but they also help young Iowans afford higher education, so that they can gain the skills our workforce needs. It’s a great example of the kind of partnerships that are helping Americans prepare for the future by investing in new generations. It’s a partnership with a direct impact on our economy.
More of these partnerships were on display at my second event on Friday, when I spoke at a roundtable with educators and Federal leaders from several agencies – the Veterans Administration, Federal Protective Services, Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, General Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – all of whom have active services working in Iowa.
The partnerships created between our Federal services in Iowa and local farms, businesses, and schools continue to aid Iowa’s expanding economy. In fact, these partnerships have been benefiting our national economy for decades – they’ve helped farmers boost corn yields from 37 to 147 bushels per acre, and they’ve helped veterinarians and doctors work together to combat new diseases. Over half of new diseases in humans originate in animals, making veterinarians our first line of defense, and a critical profession to recruit into Federal service. Under the leadership of President Obama, our Federal services are working to ensure that these relationships deepen and continue to benefit our local farms and businesses in the 21st Century.
At OPM, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our Federal agencies have a skilled workforce that makes partnerships in places like Iowa possible. On the Federal level, we’ve cut the number of days it takes to fill a vacancy, reduced the paperwork it takes to bring qualified talent on board, and have identified new paths to employ our returning veterans. In short, we’re ensuring that we have the talent needed to best serve the American people, from combatting terrorism to curing diseases.
We’re also putting the finishing touches on our Pathways Program for Students and Recent Graduates. This program will allow Federal agencies to take advantage of the latest information being provided by our nation’s great research institutions like the University of Iowa and Iowa State - both schools that have been instrumental in our growing agricultural economy as well as other fields.
Our economy continues to recover because of the efforts of the American people. Progress is never guaranteed, but working together is the best way I know to make it happen. I’m thrilled to see that change happening in Iowa.
John Berry is the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.