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Federal Cyber Service:
Scholarship For Service (SFS)

Student Placement Issues:
Exploration of the Solution Space

A report from a NSF workshop
held August 5 -6, 2003.

I. Executive Summary
II. Introduction
III. Actions Taken in
Response to Problem
IV. Recommendations
Meeting Participants

SFS Program Statistics

Agencies That Have
Hired SFS Students
NSF Disclaimer and
Contact Information

IV. Recommendations

Immediate Action Items to Address Short-Term Issues

OPM Related:

  • OPM is arranging for a demonstration to show PIs what agency officials see when they run student searches.

  • OPM staff and PIs are exploring other possible implementations (e.g. the University of Tulsa and Florida State University are both working on projects to address this issue) to gather information on such “best practices” and disseminate them among PIs and participating agencies.

  • OPM staff is developing a fact sheet for Federal human resource personnel about hiring SFS students. (http://www.sfs.opm.gov)

NSF Related:

  • NSF will consider funding experimental programs that address improving the SFS student placement process.

  • NSF will evaluate information about students who were released from the SFS program (i.e., not placed) to determine if any trends can be identified to enhance the recruitment, application, selection, or placement process.

  • NSF will explore the feasibility, costs, and desirability of performing a National Agency Check for all scholarship students. Ideally, the National Agency Check will take place as early as possible in the process, for example, when student nominations are sent to OPM for final selection.

  • NSF will consider using the results of publicity efforts (successful student placements and testimonials from agency representatives) to initiate a marketing campaign. In budgeting for the upcoming year, NSF will consider a marketing campaign to launch as early as December 2003.

  • As other entities evaluate the assumption that the government is facing a critical shortage of individuals trained in IA, NSF will report the results back to the SFS program participants and take into account the relationship of the findings to the program.

  • NSF will consider including in the program solicitation a requirement that PIs design and implement their own feedback mechanisms for students who are placed.

Action Items to Address Long-Term Selection and Placement Issues

NSF Related:

  • The program should consider extending the potential length of available scholarships to allow more than two years of funding, and consider removing the requirement that scholarship students attend school on a full-time basis.

  • The program should evaluate what changes would be needed to better accommodate student co-op opportunities in lieu of internships.

  • The program should consider funding an internship coordinator position at OPM for SFS students.

  • The program should assess the perceived level of need for IA personnel at Federal agencies in the coming years as well as the available positions. If the assessment suggests insufficient Federal placement opportunities will be available for SFS students, the program should consider allowing students to meet the service requirement by taking IA jobs at government-owned, contract-operated facilities, such as the national laboratories, and at the state and local government levels. The program should also consider whether faculty positions in IA could be considered as placement opportunities that meet the service requirement. If further placement opportunities are needed, consider other Federal contractor positions.

  • The program should evaluate the post placement survey conducted by the Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP) program and consider whether a similar survey should be implemented for SFS students.

  • The program should consider a mechanism to enable the current and incoming SFS/NSF program directors to work together (for as long as six months) before the incoming SFS/NSF program director takes over the position. Participants felt that continuity of management at this point in the program is highly desirable.

  • As much as possible, the program should strive to maintain consistent or comparable guidelines for length of Federal employment commitment between the IASP and SFS programs.

  • The program should consider requiring proposals to include (in an appendix) matriculation data that document the existence of courses, etc

  • NSF should consider including on the review panel individuals with knowledge about the Centers of Academic Excellence.

Principal Investigator Related:

  • To identify a larger pool of potential scholarship students, PIs may wish to consider personalized recruitment efforts.

  • To enhance recruitment efforts and to attract more women and minority students to the program, PIs may wish to consider other NSF grant opportunities (such as the Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement program, which could support outreach activities to high school and community college students, and the Advanced Technological Education program, which partners with community colleges).

Potential Short-Term Approaches to Internship and Job Placement

Principal Investigator Related:

  • Hold a job fair for SFS students to meet with representatives of Federal agencies. Invite representatives of Federal agencies to visit your school (as early as possible in the academic year) and meet with SFS students. Ideally, representatives should include both those in the areas of technical focus as well as those with authority to hire.

  • Gather representatives of Federal agencies and present profiles of available SFS students.

  • Meet with Federal agency representatives who have possible hiring influence, explain the SFS program, present student résumés, arrange for private meetings with students, and talk with human resources representatives from the agency about hiring SFS students.

  • Aggressively seek out potential internships with Federal agencies; if the agency can accommodate an internship but is unable to fund it, contact NSF for a one-time funding solution (as a last resort)

  • If an agency is willing to provide a paid internship but has difficulty putting an intern on its payroll, consider an arrangement whereby the agency makes a grant to or contract with the university, and the university pays the student intern. This arrangement allows for leeway among the parties involved.

  • Contact currently placed students; invite them to represent their agency at a job fair or have them identify a contact person in the agency with hiring authority who may be interested in SFS students

  • Direct agencies that have recruited through the IASP program to check the SFS database if they need more interns.

  • Consider publicity opportunities. Send details of successful placements to NSF and identify representatives of Federal agencies who will give testimonials about the high quality of SFS students.

  • Present details of successful placements and testimonials from employers to your university’s PR office; ask the PR staff to publicize in local papers, students’ hometown papers, and alumni magazine.

  • Ask OPM to promote SFS students for internship positions related to IA but not necessarily denoted as 2210.

  • Network among each other, PI to PI. If you have contact with an agency representative who is interested in the program but none of your students meet the specific needs of the job, refer the representative to other PIs.

  • Consider small-scale publicity/marketing efforts, such as including text on the back of business cards or on individual faculty or department websites promoting the SFS program.

NSF Related:

  • NSF will work with the NSF public relations office to place stories promoting SFS in national media outlets.

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