The federal workforce is losing the war for talent. Few college students (13 percent) say they are knowledgeable about federal opportunities and how to apply for them. The opaque and cumbersome hiring process is a major deterrent to applicants, and government rarely fills mid-level or high-level positions with candidates outside its ranks. The result is a government workforce that is isolated and out of touch with the rest of our nation’s labor market.
The challenge is particularly acute for mission-critical talent, which includes people with expertise in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
Government’s struggle to compete for top talent is especially troublesome at a time when more than half of the Senior Executive Service, government’s senior-most leaders, are poised to retire and take their institutional knowledge and specialized expertise with them. With these departures, government has an opportunity to reshape the workforce, but it must reimagine the talent it needs and be able to compete for it.
We can increase knowledge about federal careers and remove impediments to public service by: reforming the hiring process; educating college and university students, faculty and career professionals about federal opportunities and how students can apply for them; and working directly with federal agencies to improve the way they recruit and hire top talent at all levels.
Our Call to Serve program leverages hundreds of colleges and universities and dozens of federal agencies to educate people with mission-critical skills about federal careers and inspire them into public service. Call to Serve features the only national network of colleges and universities dedicated exclusively to promoting federal service.
To talk about the vast scope of public service careers and to share firsthand experiences regarding the incredible impact that can be made, the Partnership launched the Call to Serve Speakers Bureau to send federal employees to college campuses around the country. The Speakers Bureau has reached tens of thousands of students considering federal careers. However, our research revealed that students are most motivated by their peers, so we augmented the Speakers Bureau with an initiative to have students who worked as federal interns share their experiences on campus and promote federal service.
But outreach to students alone is not the answer. Federal agencies need to be more proactive if they’re going to compete for top talent. The Partnership helps agencies develop first-class recruiting, hiring and onboarding programs, and connects them with universities so they can build lasting relationships.
The Partnership also has played a pivotal role over the past 10 years in reforming the federal hiring process, starting with our research showing how the inflexible, confusing and time-consuming system has prevented government from attracting and hiring top job candidates. The Partnership testified before Congress to highlight the problems and provided advice to officials from the Bush and Obama administrations.
The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to revitalize our federal government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works.