Only 2.3% of College Students Plan to Work for Federal Government? Why?

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This topic contains 46 replies, has 20 voices, and was last updated by Avatar of Katelyn Keegan Katelyn Keegan 2 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #151926

    GovLoop Note: Terry’s post inspired this week’s “Federal Worker Question” – a joint initiative of GovLoop and The Washington Post. Responses may also be submitted on the Post.

    ——————————————————————————————————————–

    Jolie Lee, with the FederalNewsRadio reported today that, “A survey of more than 35,000 college and university students found only 2.3 percent plan to work in the federal government after leaving school.

    The Partnership for Public Service analyzed the results of the 2011 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey.

    “The results are both alarming and replete with challenges for federal hiring managers and human resources professionals who are charged with attracting a new generation of skilled employees to our government,” according to the Partnership report.”

    Why is this percentage so low, despite our continued high unemployment rates? I’m sure that there are many motivations behind this intent, but my opinion is that there is a growing coalition of the disenfranchised that see the Federal government as the problem, not the solution.

    This is very disappointing, but what can we do to turn this around?

  • #152018
    Avatar of Katelyn Keegan
    Katelyn Keegan
    Participant

    I think there are several issues at play discouraging college students from attempting the federal hiring process.

    1. Nonprofits and private industry can hire far faster than the public sector. This is a big deal when you only have 6 months before you need to start paying back student loans.
    2. Until the new Pathways Program is ready, agencies are limited to hiring current students through STEP, SCEP and PMF. Unfortunately, I have always felt that these programs not well known outside of the beltway.
    3. The negative press about being a federal employee is growing. We have long been the punchline at cocktail parties about inefficiency, ineffectiveness and such. However, in the last 2 years, Congress has made being a federal employee incredibly hard.

    I would also be interested in data related to starting salaries between private, public and nonprofit sectors. I am inclined to believe that private sector has higher starting salaries, while nonprofit and public are similar. Also the image groups nonprofit and teaching together and has a large “other” category which I believe could be an equally interesting conversation.

  • #152016
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    While I’d rather see 5% than 2.3%, the numbers are not THAT discouraging.

    I think it is important to differentiate between undergrads and those a bit older. If I was just graduating and had a big debt-load, I’d probably be looking for something in the private sector with big-time compensation too. Once you have a mortgage and kids, though, one of the things that appeals to you most is not necessarily travel, or promotions that may transfer you across the country, but rather the stability of the job, the extended benefits (for family), and the security of working for an employer who is not leaving town or being outsourced to Mexico or India. In other words, those aspects of federal employment that are usually strong attractants are not necessarily strong attractants to the age group surveyed. You will note that 17.7% indicated working in the public interest in some capacity. That may be what they want and can afford now, and it may well translate into a desire for something more substantial and secure. The romance of NGOs can wear off, sometimes.

    Second, while there is certainly federal representation just about everywhere, and the schools surveyed seem to be situated everywhere, do not ignore the proportion of students situated where the jobs aren’t. If the survey was confined to universities within a 50 mile radius of DC, I would imagine the proportion pondering federal work would be much higher. For a chunk of those surveyed, federal work may simply not be on the local radar.

    Finally, there is something to be said for the pervasive perception that the public sector is either in the process of being scaled back, or under threat of being scaled back. I know that in the Canadian context, federal job postings have reduced in number over the last few years, and applications have also dropped substantially. The lastest federal employee survey results indicate that promotion rates have reduced in the last 3 years too. I am not as familiar with the U.S. numbers, but I can’t imagine them much different. So, grads may well be turning the car around because, from a distance, it looks like the store is probably closed.

    I’m not so concerned about minimal interest, as long as those that are interested are the sorts of people who are a great fit for the job. Remember, it doesn’t take that many new recruits to backfill the outflow, and not all federal jobs require a university degree.

  • #152014
    Avatar of Henry Brown
    Henry Brown
    Participant

    Wonder what the numbers looked like 2 or 3 years ago and 5 or 6 years ago…

    ASSUME that the same 2.3 percent of all graduates… and ASSUMMING that 2009 numbers are about the same as 2011 where 1,600,000 people received bachelor degrees would indicate ~37,000 new hires at the entry level in these relative austere budgetary times.

    Elsewhere on GovLoop there is a discussion about the CBO discussion about Federal Pay levels which indicated that professionals tended to get lower pay in the Federal Sector vs the Private Sector….

    Elsewhere on GovLoop there is also a discussion on the effect of benefits in the federal sector on the hiring process…(Most new hires are not terribly interested in retirement benefits)

    Yes, I am outside the beltway BUT, Haven’t seen a significant presence at Campus Job Fairs in the last 2 or 3 years and if the federal sector wants to hire more college graduates I would offer that perhaps the solution is NOT to wait on them to come to “us” looking for a job….

  • #152012
    Avatar of Corey McCarren
    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    As a recent-ish graduate (A little under a year ago), I would say that college students perceive public sector work as boring and that there’s no autonomy for government workers. Obviously, as you all know, the public sector is very big, there are many different types of work, and there is likely something to interest most people. However, it’s not as in-plain-sight and talked about. There’s also an infatuation with business for many Americans.

  • #152010
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    college students perceive public sector work as boring and that there’s no autonomy for government workers

    However, it’s not as in-plain-sight and talked about

    Bingo.

    If one takes a step back, and examines development of vocational interests across adolescence and early adulthood more generally, you do see that when people don’t know much about a job or career path, they tend to perceive it in terms of vague social-schemas they may hold or have conveyed to them. Research into children’s emerging awareness of jobs and work indicates that their knowledge about work is quite limited, such that their early notions of career paths they might pursue is often limited to those few jobs they regularly encounter in daily life or on TV: teacher, nurse, cowboy, firefighter, police officer, doctor, ballerina, rockstar, etc. Few express a serious urge to be a podiatrist or quantity estimator or policy analyst. It’s also why a significant percentage of undergrads will switch majors after 2nd year: There are a whole lot of -ologies that they never knew existed or that turned out to be very different than they originally thought.

    Granted, there IS a lot about many public sector jobs that is boring and subject to too many controls, but I don’t know how many jobs are NOT like that. If you think Eli Manning only went to the practices he felt like attending, and didn’t have to spend hour after hour memorizing the playbook, think again.

    So, I think we could accomplish two things here by further articulating the many-splendoured forms of federal employment, and those behind-the-scenes jobs that people tend not to know about. On the one hand, it would help provide new graduates with a better sense of match between their skills and career options, and give them a reason to seek federal work. On the other hand, it would give taxpayers a more fullsome notion of just what their tax dollars do when they’re not looking, and maybe attenuate some of their complaining (and I said “some”, because there is still plenty to complain about, and always will be).

    Good call, Corey.

  • #152008
    Avatar of Corey McCarren
    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    Thanks a lot Mark, I’m glad I hit the nail on the head! I would also venture to say that we hear more about what is dysfunctional in government rather than what works. Media outlets tend to focus on the negative, and both parties win elections by saying the other party broke everything. It’s unfortunate, really, that government workers get caught in the crosshairs of politics, though I suppose inherent. If those students came out of college truly informed about the role of government and government agencies, rather than what they’ve seen on TV, that chart would look a little different. And as you’ve said, they want to be certain things because they’re portrayed positively in media, which government workers are all too often portrayed in an inaccurate and negative light.

  • #152006
    Avatar of Elinor Keith
    Elinor Keith
    Participant

    I think the difficulty of getting any federal position has a lot to do with it. I can’t say how many people have told me that I’m incredibly lucky to have been offered a position in a mere 5 months, and I probably never would have gotten a federal job if it hadn’t been for my Peace Corps service. Now, agencies are further cutting back on new hires. Meanwhile, if someone in private industry really wants you they are capable of making a decision within a month or so. Government may provide job security in the long run, but it’s very insecure while you’re waiting to see if you’ve made it past one of the many obstacles in the process.

  • #152004
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    Here’s an example of a document that my government has produced several times: http://www.itsmyday-cestmajournee.gc.ca/1008/images/PDF/nov2008_en.pdf

    It doesn’t include ALL jobs, but provides a nice cross-section, and is often surprising with respect to the sorts of jobs it includes, though I think that’s largely the point. This is the sort of thing we should all be doing more of.

    There are a LOT of things that the federal public service does that people are simply unaware of. F’rinstance, let’s say you work for a manufacturer and your job involves spraying or applying, or otherwise using, some industrial compound. There will be an MSDS ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Material_safety_data_sheet ) for it. My wife’s job is to review MSDS sheets, and verify that they contain sufficient, accurate, and up-to-date information about all known health hazards and risks. They scour the relevant medical literature every month to update what is known, so as to assure that people working with industrial chemicals can observe all necessary steps and precautions to work safely. That not only keeps workers safe, but assures that manufacturers are not liable for information they did not provide.

    A student graduating with a degree in chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, environmental studies, or a pre-med program, may wonder what they can do with that degree, and have no idea that the public service is tasked with assuring simple workplace safety within the context of jobs like this.

    There is a universe of interesting jobs and special-interest issues that new grads can attach themselves to…if only they knew.

  • #152002
    Avatar of Julie Chase
    Julie Chase
    Participant

    Katelyn, you got it!

    1. The looonnnngggggggg process. When my son was a STEP, his college collegues said they would never consider governement work.

    2. A word about Pathways, STEP, SCEP. STEP and SCEP have ceased to exist due to a group of vets who sued in court that gov managers were by passing vets so they could get college grads. The vets won in court, so now Pathways is born. The vets are out there again pushing against Pathways, which was supposed to start in Oct of last year, and then in April of this year, and now I hear it’s been pushed to July.

    Also, STEP and SCEP have to be “funded”. These programs don’t show up at your agency with a barrel full of money. At my agency, the funding for STEP stopped rather abruptly in August of 2008 because the MC said it could no longer fund the program and all 30 of the STEP’s throughout the installation were let go and haven’t been back since and there are no plans to have “summer hires” again this year. Our daddio, DoN, is still hiring STEP’s and summer hires, but we don’t as we are still in a hiring freeze.

    It’s the same with most programs that begin with a “flowery” EO, ex. Schedule A hires…..and the push back of Pathways, you have read the “fine print”. Yes, agencies have to have a “plan” in place for Schedule A’s, for college students, for grads…..but what is NOT said, is that the agency and/or it’s sub agency has to pay salaries for the hires. Uncle Sam is not standing at the door of MCHQ with a suitcase full of money to hire these folks. The EO says these programs will be in “place”, yes, it’s true, but the agencies don’t have to hire. Reason, no money. My agency is in the tsunami of retirees…..and we can’t replace them. The college students my son worked with have gone to the greener pastures of the private sector. My son still holds out hope the freeze will end soon, as the 2 yr window of eligibility into Pathways will expire in May of 2013. If Pathways doesn’t start, and my agency doesn’t have the funds, there will not be any hires. It will be “in place” with a “plan”, but no hires.

    3. The media has always ragged on government workers. But it is the small “burgs” that thrive when there is a military installation smacked in the middle of their town. I don’t think the media realizes that government workers are “outside” the beltway. Now it’s time to fight another BRAC, this is where the nightmare will begin. DC won’t feel any pain, it never does. It’s the little towns that rely on the military installations to keep them going, especially in this economy.

    Read the fine print.

  • #152000

    I really like your journal Mark. It would be nice to publish something like this, maybe in video format, during our Public Service Recognition Week that we have each year here in the states. My agency publishes a “Day in the Life” publication to let taxpayers know what we do, but our best efforts are through movies, such as The Guardian or TV show such as Border Wars. We definitely need to tell our story in a more compelling format for those who we ultimately work for – our citizens. Then, maybe we will see more interest in careers with the Federal government. We can only hope.

  • #151998
    Avatar of Corey McCarren
    Corey McCarren
    Participant

    That’s pretty cool! I reviewed MSDS’s for my job at a laboratory, and it’s really important that they contain all of the necessary information (though I had much less skill at verifying the information). Fingers crossed! That is a very important job, as MSDS’s need to be sent when selling materials, and if the buyer doesn’t have all of the information it can be very dangerous. You’ve definitely proven that there are many important yet behind-the-scenes jobs in government.

  • #151996
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    That “Day in the Life” document is interesting, and certainly persuasive, though it strikes me that it is more oriented at encouraging public perception of the legitimacy and necessity of the agency and its activities. One comes away from it with the perception that there is a place for this agency in my nation’s budget and plans, though not necessarily a place for me in that agency.

    With respect to the subject matter of this thread, the ideal would be materials that allow a potential recruit to imagine themselves working in such a place, or at least imagine there might be a spot for what they can bring to the table. It doesn’t necessarily have to make the jobs sexy, dynamic, or stellar. All it really has to do is convince the grad that what they studied, spent large sums of money on, and find interesting, can actually translate into a valid and fairly compensated job serving the public interest.

  • #151994

    Completely agree! The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service have asked this same question and received similar answers. Check them out at:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/2012/02/06/gIQAtcREwQ_story.html.

  • #151992
    Avatar of Dave Uejio
    Dave Uejio
    Participant

    Am I the only one with questions about the methodology of this survey? I ask because other instruments, such as the Universum Ideal Employer for Undergraduates survey routinely lists the CIA, FBI, State Department, Treasury Department, and my home team NIH right there with private sector luminaries such as Facebook, Goldman Sachs, and Coca-Cola. I confess to not reading the report, the number just looks too low to me.

  • #151990
    Avatar of Peter Sperry
    Peter Sperry
    Participant

    So do we spend tens of millions to maintain a military base as an economic development project or because there is a legitimate military need? If the military truly does not need the services available at a given facility, should the tax payers be asked to keep it open just to maintain jobs? If the the employees are doing work that is unnecessary just so the government can provide them a paycheck, how is that any different from welfare?

  • #151988
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    Like any survey, the results will depend on who is answering the questions, and the nuance of the questions. I poked around last night at the NACE and PPS sites, trying to find a copy of the survey instrument itself, but to no avail. I think the entire report, including the instrument itself, is only available by purchase. However the executive summary of the report (which seems to be available in several different forms) lists all the school involved. It’s fairly broad representation, and given the size of the respondent sample, I have no qualms about the reliability of the estimates. But it would be nice to know a little more about how the question was pitched, and the kinds of programs these kids were in. It may shed a little more light on what the 2.3% does or doesn’t mean.

    There is one very useful clue in Jolie Lee’s article: “The prospect of working for the public sector is higher for former federal interns — 17.9 percent said they planned to work for the federal government“. Some may view even that 17.9% as too low. From work I’ve been involved in a little over a decade ago, I think one should note that, for some students, their approach to internships, co-op placements, and such, was largely “Meh…it’s a job and I needed one to pay for school”. For others, the internship/placement was in hopes of translating into a job, or perhaps of an exploratory nature, but the hosting manager/organization did not plan for it very well. The student did a bunch of joe-jobs over the summer, getting handed off to a succession of supervisors – essentially whoever was not on vacation at that point – and doing things that were not necessarily related to their training. The result was that they felt no particular compunction to pursue federal work. If, however, the student had the opportunity to work with a consistent team over that internship/placement, attend meetings that created the sense of being part of a team, and essentially take ownership of a project, possibly seeing it to completion, their declared intentions to pursue federal work in the future were noticeably higher. Like I noted in an earlier post, the potential recruit has to be able to imagine themselves in the job, and as part of the organization – they need to “internalize the role/career”.

    I’ll not blame those managers who didn’t leverage the opportunity, since it would often happen that money became freed up to hire a student at the last second. But I will say that more effective planning of such internships AS a recruitment lever, by arranging circumstances for the student to feel embedded in the organization and mandate, goes a long way. I’ll wager that the 17.9% Jolie notes had much better internship experiences than the other 82.1%.

  • #151986
    Avatar of Elliot Volkman
    Elliot Volkman
    Participant

    The number one issue I continue to hear about why grads avoid trying to work for the government is the hiring process and hiring time.

  • #151984

    That’s true, after they decide to try out the Federal government, but this survey is of college students who have no experience with the application process yet. This may be part of the equation, but I think there are a number of factors that also impact the perception of Federal positions as being undesirable, like the reputation of Federal work as being bureaucratic and Federal employees as not being the best and brightest. Mostly perceptions from outside the system, not based on facts from insiders like you and me.

  • #151982
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    Elliot, I don’t know if that reflects a lack of desire to work within the federal PS regardless, or simply the desire to work anywhere, and private or non-governmental sector offers just happen to come in first.

    I do think that staffing which needs to take a long time, creates problems for itself by not providing frequent enough updates of the status of the process, or even explaining why it takes as long as it does. For recent grads or other young adults whose prior experience with staffing can often consist of hiring procedures that are superficial and fast because the employer doesn’t expect to hang onto the hire for more than 3-4 months, that “radio silence” can have a substantial impact. I don’t know if you’ve ever canvassed for a charity, but if you’ve rung the bell and knocked, and you can’t hear anything or detect any signs of movement through the little pane of frosted glass, how long do you wait before leaving? There may be a very generous granny with a bad hip trudging…slowly…but by the time she comes to the door, unless you’ve had some indications a person is on their way, you’re gone when she opens it.

  • #151980

    I have talked to many people on staff and many who applied and ended up working for someone else, for this very reason. Had the same experience with my applying for gov work. It was almost a year before I heard anything on some of the jobs I had applied for. I was working private sector by then.

    I had an excellent private sector resume but never got that call back on gov jobs. If I took my resume to a resume help desk at a job fair, they went through it and handed it back saying I was good to go. The last job I applied for (and got) was a career ladder, permanent, position. I was determined to get it and decided the best option was to hire an expert in gov resumes to help me with gov speak. I gathered my work history, wrote my resume and turned it over to the expert. She highlighted some areas where I addressed the skills outlined in the announcement, put some in all caps, asked me some questions, and voila! My resume, much the same format I always had, hits the top of certs every time now. Your average graduate won’t have funds to do this.

    The whole process was intimidating. Then there was all the negativity about my going to the gov job from the people I worked with. Because public sector is always depicted as lazy and not helpful. If they knew the hoops we had to jump through to do the minimal job, they would know that there are very few real slackers in gov jobs.

  • #151978

    I am really surprised that our friends at the Partnership for Public Service (http://www.ourpublicservice.org/) have not joined this discussion. After all, their mission is to “revitalize our federal government by inspiring a new generation to serve and by transforming the way government works.” They have great programs like the SAMMIE awards to recognize exceptional Federal service, the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government awards, Call to Serve, Public Service Recognition Week, FedRecruit, and their Ambassador program. These are all steps in the right direction. I’m just not sure all US citizens know about their great work. They could be the foundation for a great outreach effort to tell our story to the American public.

  • #151976
    Avatar of Julie Chase
    Julie Chase
    Participant

    So if my base closes, can we move in with you? NC is the most military friendly state. That is why we chose it when we were previously BRAC’d. If you have never been through a BRAC, don’t dismiss it as “excess”, there are people involved. At my previous base (which closed), 2 people committed suicide, and many lost money trying to selll their home in a saturated market. When the bumping started and a higher level manager was bumped by a lower level worker because she was a vet, the former manager was caught bringing a gun on base. Yeah, Peter, it gets real nasty. And if it comes to the area where I am now, this little burg will blow away with the wind. And that is better? really?

    The better solution, is to start with the bases in Europe. Again, the folks in DC won’t feel any pain, it will just be another newsfeed on their government provided blackberry….er ah, android. My bad.

  • #151974
    Avatar of George Danilovics
    George Danilovics
    Participant

    Look at the bright side, 27% are going to graduate school. This is the 2nd largest piece of the pie.

    I wonder what the results look like when polling graduate students?

  • #151972
    Avatar of Raymond Clark
    Raymond Clark
    Participant

    Fear not, government has ever had a shortage of people. What you aren’t considering is the non-college grad community. We in the DoD will be losing tens of thousands of high quality junior and mid grade personnel who will fill in the gaps nicely. How many of those choose government service in unknown, but given the civilian market, my guess is quite a few. I am also encouraged by the percentage of graduates going on to graduate schools. Those are potential recruits down the line. As a large employer of graduate students, we should be sponsoring scholarships for such folks and encourage that.

    For me recruitment isn’t the problem, its retention. With the reductions, freezes, re-evaluation of retirement and health care benefits, those more than anything will have an impact on both recruitment and retention. We should tread lightly here and ensure we balance the right insentives with the need for talent.

  • #151970
    Avatar of Robin Shoberg
    Robin Shoberg
    Participant

    Uhmm let see, no pay raises for two or more years, no chance for advancement in your pay grade, my retirement, after working 30+ years, will be based on high 5 years of work, which will reduce my retirement, paying for more into my retirment which is actually a pay decrease, paying more of the share of my health insurance, and to top it off people hate us, yah I think I will go work somewhere else. Is it no wonder that college grads don’t want to work for the Federal Government. When I started, 29 years ago, I was following what JFK stated “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I was not able to get into the military so I went into the civilian side of the Government. For the most part working for the Government has not been that bad. I live in a very small town in North Dakota and there are very few that make the money that I do and at first the benefits were not that bad, but now as I approach retirement, I have notice that what was once a good retirement is not mediocre at best. My years of experience is no longer appreciated and is actually frown upon.

    In the survey, these graduates want a starting job to pay them $60,000 +. It took me over 20 years to reach that level of pay. When I was hired as a graduate from one of the big colleges in North Dakota with two bachelor degrees my starting pay was $13,300. It seems that these grads need to get a touch of reality. There once was a saying “those who can do, those who can’t teach.” Now it seem that working for the government is “those that are ambitious and want to make a difference in the world work for big business and those who are under educated and lazy work for the government” and this is too bad because working for the government is not that bad.

  • #151968

    You make 2 great points Raymond! We can certainly tap into the reservoir of military veterans who are facing downsizing to fill most positions. I know that we have about 50,000 veterans in my agency (about 25%), which as a veteran myself, makes me proud.

    Also, you make a good point about retention. We tend to put 90% of our effort into recruitment and forget to “re-recruit” employees once they come on board. We need to focus on retention and engagement if we ever hope to declare ourselves as an “employer of choice.”

  • #151966
    Avatar of Raymond Clark
    Raymond Clark
    Participant

    I went though a BRAC too; was one of the last 100 families at Chaute AFB, IL. That town recovered and is doing better now then when the base was open. Many, not all, but many communities adapt. Peter is right, the government is not in the busiess of employing folks where there is no military value added. And, the millitary does provide excellent re-location and transition benefits most companies in the private sector wouldn’t do.

    But, realistically, the Congress will never do another large scale CONUS BRAC; its just too politically painful. Some overseas will see reductions of course. This still leaves the Air Force with 20% excess overhead that will cost us precious dollars.

  • #151964
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    Don’t be so quick to like this.

    There will not be the sort of employment for all of these folks that they feel is commensurate with their training and degree of commitment to their discipline (well, unless 3 in 4 go for an MBA). Having a more educated populace is great. Having a more educated populace milling around underemployed? Not so much.

    Grad school takes time, and eats away at one’s income earning years. It also defers family life and all major life-stage expenses related to that, reducing the number of “no obstacle” income earning and saving years between when those expenses end and when retirement is anticipated (my youngest won’t be finished undergrad until I am 67). That places pressure on pension plans and investments to deliver up more with less, which is not good for anyone.

    As the proud holder of 3 degrees, I’m not going to speak ill of grad school. But I also recognize that there is a need for a careful balance in terms of the proportion of society that takes that path. I also recognize that, for some, grad school is essentially circling the airport while the job market catches its breath.

    So I’m going to be a little more guarded about this than you are. But, like anything, you gotta have cheerleaders on both sides of the field, right? :-)

  • #151962
    Avatar of Raymond Clark
    Raymond Clark
    Participant

    The “freeze” is not a stop hiring freeze. It will be more of a “you can hire one for every three that leave.” This is designed to reduce the overall federal workforce by 5% to 2007 levels. Remember, we had a surge of hiring during the transition of contractor to civilian workers due to insoursing.

  • #151960
    Avatar of Katherine Ryan
    Katherine Ryan
    Participant

    A recent survey by FederalNewsRadio showed that lack of career development is the third reason a young federal employee would leave their job (http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=204&sid=2464700). This not only speaks to current young feds in the workforce, but also recent graduate applicants. Young applicants to government positions do not see the same sorts of career development opportunities at agencies that the do in private organizations. Expectations about how many jobs a person will hold in their career have changed (http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/162/average-time-spent-at-job-4-years), and younger workers see no great appeal in being tenured in government for life. Many agencies also do not recognize that the younger generations are digital natives; they grew up using technology and the Internet. The newer generations are used to having information delivered to them and need to be recruited more actively. Lastly, recent college grads do not operate well in a hierarchical, top-down workplace (and Government is the stereotypical “poster child” for this structure whether it means to be or not). Recent college grads are into a much more fluid, flexible workplace where technology is used communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

  • #151958
    Avatar of Allison Primack
    Allison Primack
    Participant

    Here are some responses from GovLoop’s Facebook:

    Brandon Key http://http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/post/federal-pay-freeze-bill-comes-up-for-a-vote/2012/02/01/gIQA5wVViQ_blog.html

    Brandon Key http://http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120202/BENEFITS01/202020302/1041/BENEFITS – Headline: Senators propose civilian pay freeze through 2014


    Brandon Key http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=3178 “Among people with a professional degree or doctorate, total compensation costs were 18 percent lower for federal employees, than for similar private-sector employees, on average.”

    Candace Riddle I choose to work for an NGO along side the government primarily because of pay and benefits. I looked into federal work, but it would have been a pay cut even with a Masters degree.

  • #151956
    Avatar of Allison Primack
    Allison Primack
    Participant

    Miranda Braatz Yes, I believe there are two main reasons: 1. College students outside of DC, VA, MD don’t see it as a viable option as they are unsure if there are Fed jobs outside of DC. Which leads to #2, if they are aware of Fed jobs (including those going to college in DC) they see the hiring system as too difficult and convoluted to get into, the private sector lures them with normal and much more quick hiring systems. College students these days are concerned with financial and personal security, especially the ones from big-name schools that carry a high price tag and student loans that need to be paid on within 6 months, they will not wait around to apply to a government job. Personally I believe it’s a sad sad thing that the hiring system has disillusioned the young and the talented.

  • #151954
    Avatar of Allison Primack
    Allison Primack
    Participant

    Kathy Sandru I would like to know why the hiring process is so restricted? I have applied for opportunities through USAJOBS.gov, and while I was found eligible for alot of positions, my applications were not forwarded to the hiring official. I have taken college courses, but due to the cost, have not been able to get a degree (based on my household income, I don’t qualify for Pell grants). Yet I have over 10 years of experience within my field. Too much focus is being put on degrees and not on experience, IMO. There are many people like myself who have the knowledge, and the skills to perform well in the jobs, but are not given the opportunity to present them in an interview format because we don’t have a degree.

  • #151952
    Avatar of Allison Primack
    Allison Primack
    Participant

    Sam Luks I think it is all of the above, plus, with the federal pay freeze, they will be making in 2-3 years what they are making now, and STILL trying to pay back their student loans, save some, and make ends-meet. Being a fed myself, I can tell you.. It is hard. Everything is going up, except my pay. Granted, I am not expecting a pay raise. But looking at what my private counterparts are making, a little bit would be nice. I am, however thankful to have a job, so I would take what I have over what I don’t.

    As for the hiring into the Government… Yes, it is so darn hard, even to try and transfer from one agency to another. I think that is a probably another huge factor. Trying to get *in* the door take 3-18 months, depending on who you are trying to get on with. And being a Vet, well… lets save that for another question and answer session. ;)
  • #151950
    Avatar of Allison Primack
    Allison Primack
    Participant

    Also, some responses from GovLoop’s LinkedIn:

  • #151948
    Avatar of Daniel Risacher
    Daniel Risacher
    Participant

    You say it like it’s a bad thing. Why is this a problem again?

    According to OPM, there were about 2.1M federal civilians (2010 data). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 130M nonfarm employees in the US workforce. (2011 data) So… only 1.6% of all nonfarm jobs are feds. (roughly)

    I see this as meaning that there are too many people interested in federal employment.

  • #151946
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    I wouldn’t necessarily describe this as too many people. But there is an issue of balance and match between the job market and the labour maret.

    One also needs to distinguish between overall labour force, and specific skill-sets. Undoubtedly, for some kinds of federal work there will be the sort of manpower glut that results in reams of people having to be processed through the sorts of automated means required to process that many people, in spite of seeming diminished interest in federal work. As an active participant in the IPAC listserv ( http://www.ipacweb.org/ ), I hear all about this.

    At the same time, there are those occupations where there is a risk of talent shortage, or at least enough competition between employers or other sorts of mismatches, that hiring managers are justifiably concerned about having a big enough talent pool to draw from. Every year a small, but not insignificant, number of managers will try to staff a position, advertise it for longer than they usually do, and still come up empty-handed. That there are 40 available meteorologists on the west coast who meet your needs does not mean they necessarily wish to relocate to the east coast. Thankfully it doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens.

  • #151944

    Good point on skill mis-matches. For instance, currently the government is trying to hire thousands of cyber-security specialists, but is finding it very difficult. Most graduates with this specialty prefer the private sector, which leaves the government with limited options except to contract out for these services. Which results in the government paying higher costs for the same services. I’m sure that there are many other specialties like this – e.g. statisticians, accountants, contract specialists, etc.

  • #151942
    Avatar of Scott Thomas
    Scott Thomas
    Participant

    One common theme among the comments here is the negative image of government workers. I’m glad groups like govloop and Young Government Leaders are working to change that image!

  • #151940
    Avatar of Julie Chase
    Julie Chase
    Participant

    Not for MC civilians. We are down 50 workers due to retirement and I know 15 more who are leaving in the next 3 months. And we “are” in a hiring “freeze”, not the one for three like other branches. No one is getting hired, period. Navy is hiring, Forestry is hiring…..not MC. The senior among us are leaving, as they say, “before the high 3 becomes the high 5″.

  • #151938
    Avatar of Robert Bacal
    Robert Bacal
    Participant

    The numbers mean NOTHING, although it would be interesting to see how they compare across decades.

    The numbers are just survey results, and people don’t make decisions about jobs, particularly in a tough, perhaps permanently tough job market in advance. They make decisions based on what’s available, and what makes sense AT THE TIME they are looking.

    I never imagined myself working for government, while I was in grad. school, but when I came across a job posting that sounded perfect, I went for it. I would have done the same for any company, or school board. And, believe it or not, when I was hired in gov. I planned on staying a maximum of two years. I had no clue what it would be like. I stayed much longer.

    Survey results generally, are problematic on any topic, because they don’t relate directly to BEHAVIOR.

  • #151936
    Avatar of Robert Bacal
    Robert Bacal
    Participant

    Good points, but it’s worth pointing out that the private sector also is having problems finding the good fit skill sets for some things. I believe that issue has to do with values/culture, actually, in our Western countries, where a lot of jobs requiring a lot of hard work (education) are not seen as desirable, given the shift to make universities, places to get job TRAINING, rather than places for higher education.

    It is, in my view, the economic undoing of the West’s ability to compete, but it IS cultural. It’s also irreversible short of a national leader pushing the old “sputnik” agenda.

  • #151934
    Avatar of Robert Bacal
    Robert Bacal
    Participant

    The notion of “service” seems to have been lost, too. And, I hazard a guess that most college students have only a minimal grasp of how government actually works. I know I didn’t before I was offered and took a government job. In fact, few citizens, in generally, have much of an idea of what goes on in government, since the media provides such a skewed vision.

    (on location in Winnipeg, doing some customer SERVICE work for the MB. gov.)

  • #151932
    Avatar of Robert Bacal
    Robert Bacal
    Participant

    Mark, I get that under-employment is a big problem, but it’s been so for…well…ever. I think there’s a need to start de-linking graduate school attendance and jobs, and focus on education for its own sake, at least more than is the case now.

    As an aside, for a number of fields, graduate work provides graduates with lifelong flexibility, provided they don’t specialize in arcane areas. So many of the skills and attitudes one can learn in grad. school have a lot of lifelong power over a career, but few think of it over the long haul.

    My grad. work prepared me to do so many different things to make a living, and to have interesting careers, a number of which I’ve explored.

  • #151930
    Avatar of Mark Hammer
    Mark Hammer
    Participant

    Bob, it took me about 3 years to stop feeling like an anthropology doctoral student parachuted into the Amazon to observe a tribe that had no previous contact with the outside world. That wasn’t so much a media misdepiction, as much as the complete absence of any sort of information. I had absolutely no idea that any branch of government even did what my department does.

    Students aren’t the only ones unaware of how the bureaucratic side of government works. Take a gander at transcripts from various Parliamentary or Congressional committee hearings, when bureaucrats appear before them. You can often find yourself aghast at how little knowledge those elected officials have about the inner workings of that which they pass judgment on. They’re not idiots, but they certainly are underinformed.

    (if you run into Paul Thomas while in “the Peg”, say hi from me)

  • #151928
    Avatar of Andy Lowenthal
    Andy Lowenthal
    Participant

    From what I understand, Katelyn, starting salaries in federal service (say GS-7/9) are actually relatively competitive with many fields in the private and non-profit sectors. It’s after the first 3-5 years of service where many folks start to get stuck without possibility of promotion or pay increase (also commonly referred to as “plateauing,”) regardless of whether they’re high performers.

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