The Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is the fastest-growing racial group in the country. From 2000 to 2010, our community has grown by 46%, and by 2020, almost one out of every five (19.5%) Americans will be of AAPI descent. While the ethnic makeup of our nation is diversifying, AAPI leadership and representation in the federal government is lacking. Currently, only 5.6% of the federal workforce is of AAPI descent and AAPIs represent a mere 4.4% of the Senior Executive Service (SES). The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (Initiative) is committed to collaborating with community organizations, federal agencies, and college and university students to increase the AAPI voice in all levels of the federal government.
On Thursday, May 22, 2014, I had the privilege of speaking at the New York Regional Interagency Working Group (RIWG) Youth Conference for college and university students interested in careers in public service and the federal government. More than 240 students and career advisors attended, representing over 20 universities and colleges throughout the region. The conference provided a valuable opportunity for students to connect with representatives from government agencies and learn about the assortment of programs and career opportunities that they offer. It was exciting for me to meet so many talented and driven students.
We kicked off the event with a Regional Senior Executive Service Panel, which included high-level officials from the Social Security Administration, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A representative from the Office of Personnel Management then shared opportunities within the U.S. Pathways Program, which provides meaningful training and career development opportunities for individuals who are at the beginning of their federal service. Students also had the opportunity to attend breakout sessions tailored to their interests, meet one-on-one with representatives during our networking sessions to learn more about specific internship programs and careers, and hear from senior executives during a second panel discussion.
One speaker shared the wisdom that as students are making their career choices, it is important to remember to love what it is that they are doing. Participants left enriched and more informed about specific careers in the federal government, and one participant noted that the conference’s panels, workshops, and networking sessions gave a refreshing glimpse behind the curtain pertaining to the hiring process at the federal level. After seeing the impact that open and direct dialogue can have on students, I look forward to continuing the NY RIWG and the Initiative’s efforts to engage young leaders and encourage them to consider careers in public service.
Maulik Pancholy is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.