Building a Federal Workforce that Reflects a Changing America

Marla Hendriksson gives remarks during the launch event of AAGEN’s SES Development Program on March 21, 2012. The SES Development Program is part of the White House Initiative on AAPIs’ overall efforts to improve federal employment opportunities for AAPIs

Marla Hendriksson gives remarks during the launch event of AAGEN’s SES Development Program on March 21, 2012. The SES Development Program is part of the White House Initiative on AAPIs’ overall efforts to improve federal employment opportunities for AAPIs.

The face of America is changing.  According to population estimates, 2011 marked the first time more children were born from minority backgrounds than whites.  And the U.S. Census projects that America will become a majority-minority nation in 2043.  This is a huge shift in the face of our country, and especially for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).

AAPIs have been the fastest growing racial group over the past 10 years, growing almost 50%, more than four times as fast as the total U.S. population. AAPIs are also now projected to more than double, from 15.9 million in 2012 to 34.4 million in 2060. 

As America becomes more diverse, the federal workforce and its leadership should reflect the public we serve.  By 2020, almost one out of every five (19.5%) Americans will be of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) descent.  Yet AAPIs currently account for only 5.6% of the total federal workforce and only 4.4% of the Senior Executive Service (SES), the highest managerial level in the federal government. 

The White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) has been collaborating with federal agencies and community organizations to increase AAPI representation in the federal government at all levels, strengthening the pipeline for AAPIs to enter and advance up the ranks.  One example is how WHIAAPI, the Office of Personnel Management, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Asian American Government Executives Network (AAGEN) are working together to provide opportunities for AAPIs and others to gain the skills to vie for SES positions through AAGEN’s SES Development Program. I am a proud graduate of the program, which prepares GS-15 (or equivalent) federal employees to apply for SES positions through in-depth training and mentoring.  Because of my participation in this program, I was able to rise to the SES ranks.

AAGEN’s SES Development Program helped me fine-tune my “big picture” executive level thinking through comprehensive coursework and coaching.  The program included executive development courses led by accomplished leaders in the public and private sectors, coaching in mock interviews, individual mentoring, and career counseling.  I came out of the program with a prepared SES application, stronger interviewing and public speaking skills, and new networks to advance my career.  Because of the AAGEN program, I had the knowledge, support, and confidence to apply for SES positions and successfully secured the position I am in today in the federal government.

I strongly encourage GS-15 (or equivalent) federal employees with sights on the SES level to apply for AAGEN’s SES Development Program.  Applications for the next cycle will be accepted through December 31, 2013.  The next class will commence in April 2014 and the program will continue to March 2015.  Training sessions will be held each quarter in the Washington, DC metro area.  To apply for the program, visit www.aagen.org.

Through similar programs, we can build a stronger, more diverse federal workforce. Together, we can help make AAPIs an integral part of our federal government.

Marla Hendriksson is the Director of Communications at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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