Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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Many grads, but not the right stuff

There’s a Catch-22 in government hiring these days—and a Senate panel took a closer look at it this week.

The problem? At the same time that a lot of new college grads are finding themselves without jobs, the federal government is scratching around to find enough qualified grads to fill mission-critical (and largely technical) positions.

Part of the disconnect, according to testimony at a Senate federal workforce subcommittee hearing—called “Inspiring Students to Federal Service”—is that most students of a technical, scientific or medical bent are just not as interested in federal employment. The private sector just looks better to them.

But even if students with the right skills in fact were more interested in federal employment, there is another problem: Colleges and universities can’t satisfy the demand.

Timothy McManus, vice president for education and outreach at the Partnership for Public Service, in his testimony cited a 2009 report assembled by his organization that estimated the government would need to fill 273,000 mission-critical jobs between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2012.

But McManus said schools aren’t producing the numbers of grads with the right degrees to step into those spots. Of the 273,000 jobs he cited, there were about 35,000 slots for nurses and around 11,000 for engineers. But recent statistics on enrollments and graduations in nursing schools, for example, shows that those schools turned away around 68,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2010, McManus said. In two-thirds of those cases, schools cited faculty shortages as the reason.

Another complication: Noncitizens make up a large share of the graduates who earn degrees in the desired mission-critical fields. In most cases, that rules out federal service.

And one thing they didn’t mention (we don’t think) that anyone who is a parent in America these days knows: A lot of kids veer away from the advanced math and science that these jobs require because they can. It’s just “too hard.”

It’s not a bright picture.

Those at the hearing were more hopeful.

“We must develop innovative strategies to bridge this gap,” said Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii). “This creates a unique opportunity for universities to place graduates in good jobs, if we can make students aware the opportunities exist and prepare them to fill those jobs.”

We wish them luck.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on Jun 21, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 Ned DC

After working in the private sector for years, I joined the government. I have learned that Fed HR have no idea how to evaluate skills unless the fit the "classification code description". They can't see how to retrain anyone, nor the benefits of hiring experienced people or that ALL new grads need training-colleges don't prep kids to be "job ready" upon graduation. The worst travesty I see is the waste of good people who want to do more, but because they are not pals with someone at the top, they are passed over. Then there is the fact they would prefer to hire foreign contractors, vs. training or retraining American workers. Its a mess, and I plan to head back to the private sector soon where resources are not wasted.

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 Duane Louisville, KY

I am a 48 year old white male with a 28 year old Associates in Electronics, which i realize is obsolete. So, I need to "retool" in order to be employable. If I knew the criteria I needed to meet to get one of these jobs that are unfillable, I would gladly get started right now.
At my age, I have a lot of experience but no "Wall-paper". I saw where there were grants for IT training but, after researching it, I found that you have to be from another country to apply. Something is wrong with that! Certification courses are way too expensive and not eligble for student aid. So, after completing the necessary education, I will be 3 or 4 years older, more in debt and still unemployed because the inexperienced young grads seem to get picked first. What do I do? There are plenty of $8-10/hr jobs, but it's hard to live on that.

Sun, Jun 26, 2011 been burned once Never-Never-Land

The real shame is many of the advanced degrees mean nothing. Both the student and parents were taken advantage off and sold a "bill of goods". Many advanced degrees are awarded by Colleges and Universities that are in themselves unqualified either in the actual courses taught or even worse the courses themselves are taught by "Graduates" who earned their PHDs by completeling the self-same courses. In short the the blind are leading the blind and the adwarded degress have little if any true education to back them up. In other words both the students and their parents are the victums of an educational equal of a "PONZI Scheme". Money flowing in and nothing flowing out. The real loser becomes the person who hires these bogus degreeed people. After the first failure do you think a reasonable hiring person will believe in ther next "INSTANT Manager".

Fri, Jun 24, 2011 DOD Virginia

I know that in my area, we recruit and hire inexperienced engineers straight out of college. They use this place as a way to get experience and then move on to a higher paying job that requires experience. I can't blame them either. I have been with the federal government for 28 years. During that time, we have had Brac, RIFs, pay freezes and been the whipping boys of congress. The only thing congress can agree on is that they want to cut our jobs to make it look like they are doing something. When the economy was going strong, the public thought we were chumps for working with the government while everyone else is making a ton of money. We take our measly 1-2% cost of living increase each year. When the economy soured, the public thinks we are overpaid and it is unfair that we have such good jobs while they are unemployed. Basically, we are scapegoats.

Fri, Jun 24, 2011 Philip Russo United States

I have just graduated from Strayer University. I am a disabled veteran and have not been able to join the work force. Reason being when someone like me has interviewed for a position the hiring authority can not get the money to bring me on. Although there is 2 positions coming available because they are retiring. The government can not disconnect from the fact their are losing these resources, and need to get a replacements to have a proper transition for these professionals. The next thing that happens in this case is the learning curve is increased by unmeasured size. Reason being the size equates to speciality of job requirements.

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