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Union calls for better recruiting outreach

Only a minority of young adults and school-age children in America have put the federal government on their radar as a desirable employer and future career choice, according to a new survey.

Only a small minority of young adults and school-age children in America have put the federal government on their radar as a desirable employer and future career choice, according to a new survey.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which sponsored the survey , warns that along with a huge wave of baby boomer retirements potentially just around the corner, the ongoing failure of agencies to interest young people in a federal career must be rectified—or a very real crisis in recruiting a new workforce to do the work of government is likely to occur.

Alarming survey results

The NTEU survey, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, polled 1,000 adults with children between the ages of 8 and 22. A mere 8 percent of the parents who participated named the federal government as a place their children would want to work, according to the survey results. And only 6 percent said their children would want to be part of the military. 

NTEU President Colleen Kelley, in a statement released with the results, buttressed these alarming results by quoting even more dire figures from another survey.

“Other data [from a previous recent survey] show that only 2 percent of college students said they planned on joining the federal government after graduation,” she said, referencing a Partnership for Public Service/National Association of Colleges and Employers analysis released in March.

Kelley emphasized that despite the low starting point, the federal government and federal employee organizations have the means to turn the tide of opinion.

“Our latest public service campaign is intended to highlight the looming retirement problem that we see coming down the road, which will have serious consequences for the country,” Kelley told FEND. “We have to deal with the fact that 600,000 federal employees—31 percent of the federal workforce—will be eligible to retire in 2017.”

Kelley emphasized that larger than usual numbers of employees have been retiring in recent years, and that the potential for crisis is very real. With the rapidly growing number of feds eligible for retirement stacked up against a dwindled interest in government jobs, the potential for a massive gap in skilled people to fill federal jobs is made even worse—hence the impetus for her union’s new publicity campaign, according to Kelley.

“We have two goals in this campaign,” Kelley said. “First, we want to encourage parents to discuss potential federal careers with their children. Second, we want to better remind the public of the critical work that federal employees do every day—about their dedication, and work—and we think doing so will help bring more interest from young people, too, and attract more of them to consider federal service.”

“If you look at the [NTEU/Ipsos] survey, only 37 percent of the parents who have school-age children are currently talking to their children about a career in the federal government,” Kelley continued. “But we have a lot of data from this survey—and it shows that 75 percent of [parents surveyed] think that the work that federal employees do is vital to our country.”

“The survey further shows parents think that federal career offers stable jobs with solid career paths,” Kelley told FEND.

The survey shows, therefore, that parents are far more likely to respect federal employment than to recommend it, opening an opportunity if these parents would share these opinions with their children.

Within that context, Kelley said, "this is all good news.”

“But we just need them to take the conversation to the next step, to have them talk to their kids about these potentials," Kelley added. "We want to change the conversation in this direction.”

Websites can help

“We think one reason for the lack of interest is a lack of information,” Kelley told FEND. “Unless you know first-hand what these opportunities are in the federal government—or you’ve talked to someone directly who does the work—we think you miss the information. We want to get that information out there.”

“The problem right now, behind the lack of interest [among young people in federal careers] we think is that many parents are talking to their kids about being doctors, or lawyers, or engineers or scientists,” Kelley said. “Somehow they don’t think these jobs exist in the federal government. But of course that’s not the case. Every one of those jobs is available at many agencies.”

NTEU’s campaign, therefore, is trying to draw attention to two key websites, Kelley said. One is www.usajobs.gov, the help wanted clearinghouse for all federal agencies. The other is NTEU's own informational site, www.theyworkforus.org, which Kelley said includes “a lot of good information and advice for parents and young people about federal jobs, including videos of our members talking to their own kids about their jobs and why they are important to our country.”

“This issue [of low youth interest in federal careers] is already a problem today,” Kelley said. “But if this retirement wave comes, and we lose a [large portion] of these 600,000 eligible retirees, we have to be in a position to have skilled and interested applicants for these jobs.”

“Changing the conversation how school-age children are thinking about—and not thinking about—the federal government, that’s what we are trying to impact with this campaign,” she said.

For more, go to www.nteu.org.


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