White House Personnel Director On A Mission: Involve More Latinos In Federal Work

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The goal is to add more Latinos to the federal workforce, where they are only 8 percent of the payroll, despite being 17 percent of the U.S. population.

But for the Obama administration official who is tasked with making the goal a reality, the mission is personal.

Katherine Archuleta, the director of the United States Office of Personnel Management, a post she has held since late last year, said she is spending time on the ground, going to Latino communities in various states to raise awareness about job opportunities in the federal government.

This week she was in California. Then she’ll be stopping in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Mexico, she said.

“It’s a personal passion of mine,” Archuleta said to Fox News Latino. “It’s my longtime professional career” goal to involve more Latinos in government work.

“Hispanics are underrepresented,” she said. “What I can do is broaden their network, and make sure they have this opportunity” to learn about and land federal jobs.

She said one way to increase Latino interest in and access to federal jobs is, for one thing, to “take a surgical approach to hiring.”

“I want to find out where Latinos are, and match them with our efforts,” she said.

Archuleta, who is the first Hispanic to head the OPM, and is one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the Obama administration, said she is partnering with groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, and colleges, including about a dozen Hispanic-serving higher education institutions, for her agency’s Latino outreach effort.

Archuleta, the former national political director for President Obama’s reelection campaign, said the Latino outreach effort essentially targets three groups – millennials, mid-level professionals, and senior workers who may consider going from the private to public sector.

One of the biggest misunderstandings among Latinos regarding federal government jobs, she said, is that they are all in Washington D.C.

“Within the Latino community, there’s an incredible interest in staying home,” Archuleta said, “they don’t want to leave their communities.”

So part of her work has meant raising awareness about the ubiquity of federal jobs – letting Latinos know that such work is everywhere, and they can find employment without venturing far from their hometown and family.

“I tell them 85 percent of federal jobs are outside the D.C. area,” Archuleta said. She urged Latinos to check USAJobs.gov 

Latinos long have complained that they lack the contacts in the federal government that other groups have and that help members of those groups learn about opportunities and get their foot in the door.

That helps explain in part why of the nearly 2 million federal workers, only 8.2 percent are Latinos, who make up about 15 percent of the private job sector.

African Americans, one group that has a strong network that provides leads about federal jobs, make up 18.2 of the federal workforce, while they are about 8 percent of the private sector, and 13 percent of the U.S. population.

Edward Valenzuela, co-chairman of the national Coalition for Fairness for Hispanics in Government, said to The Washington Post last year: “Our community could be way ahead financially if we were able to participate in federal government hiring the way African Americans did.”

Archuleta’s focus on Latinos as part of her public service has been par for the course in her career.

In an interview in 2012 with Politic365.com, a political news site, Archuleta said her foray into politics was rooted in a desire to improve conditions and life for women and Latinos.

“You do it because you have a deep passion for public good, for civic engagement,” she said, according to the site.

“For me, I was passionate about women’s issues and Latina issues in particular. I never imagined that I would be in this position, but I always knew that I would speak out on behalf of Latinas.”

For now, Archuleta will not attach a number to the goal of raising the percentage of Latinos in the federal workforce.

“We just want to move the number [8.2 percent] up,” she said.