Call to Serve: College Recruiting and Federal Agencies
June 25, 2014
Author: Tony Young, C’17
This summer, I have the privilege of working as a Center for Government Leadership Fellow at the Partnership for Public Service, a DC-based bipartisan non-profit organization that aims to revitalize the federal government. The Partnership strives towards this goal by inspiring mission-critical talent, developing strong leaders, and modernizing management systems, among other initiatives. While my role on the team is to provide evaluation and data analysis for the Center for Government Leadership programs, I’d like to focus now on a pressing issue that affects thousands of students today: college recruiting and hiring by federal agencies.
Although employees under the age of 30 make up 23.2% of the U.S. workforce, they represent only 8.5% of the federal workforce. This is a concerning statistic because it indicates that the federal government lacks generational diversity — students and recent graduates can provide the enthusiasm, energy, and unique perspectives needed to revitalize the federal government. This statistic also suggests a grim outlook on the future as more baby boomers retire. The federal government needs to take prompt action to attract, hire, and retain top graduates today in order to ensure an efficient and innovative government for the future.
A 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey of 37,874 students revealed that 24.9% of respondents ranked government as one of their top three target industries. Hence, while college students are attracted to government service, agencies need to address the barriers that prevent students from joining the federal workforce. The hiring process heavily favours applicants with a long history of work experience and is complex and difficult to navigate. For instance, an astonishing 35.1% of respondents whose ideal career was in the federal government have not searched for positions on USAJOBS, indicating a lack of understanding of the federal hiring process.
The Partnership’s Call to Serve program intends to close this gap by connecting students and jobseekers with federal opportunities. Call to Serve facilitates a talent pipeline from colleges to federal service by providing a Federal Advisor Certificate Program for campus career services professionals. Through webinars and trainings, career counselors become familiarized with the federal job hiring process to effectively help students navigate the process. The Partnership also hosts interactive workshops for federal agencies to improve their outreach strategies and maintains a network of 775 campus members for agencies’ recruiting purposes.
The federal government’s comparative disadvantage compared to other sectors in recruiting and hiring students and recent graduates has not gone unnoticed. On December 27, 2010, President Obama signed Executive Order 13562 to reform the recruiting process. The new Pathways Program was introduced in 2012 and encompasses the Internship, Recent Graduates, and the Presidential Management Fellows Programs, which are designed to provide clear paths to civil service careers. These programs level the playing field for entry-level and junior federal positions and present excellent learning and professional development opportunities.
As a rising sophomore in college, I feel optimistic about the future of federal agency recruiting for college students and recent graduates. Many federal interns enjoy their internship experiences, with 46.2% reporting that they would likely or certainly accept a full-time position with their organization (compared with 44.8% of all interns).
Additionally, although employees under the age of 30 make up a small percentage of the total federal workforce, more and more new hires are part of the millennial generation. Thus, while progress is being made to bring top young talent into the federal workforce, more can still be done to address the lack of generational diversity in federal service.
For more information on the Partnership for Public Service and the Call to Serveprogram, please visit http://www.ourpublicservice.org.
On a personal note, thank you to the Partnership for Public Service and the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative for providing me with this wonderful opportunity. This has been a great work experience for me to explore the intersection of policy, government, and the non-profit sector.
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