As the Career Director for a Master of Public Policy (MPP) program, I have no shortage of students interested in government work. Despite reports to the contrary, there are young people interested in public service careers who simply cannot find the entry door. A recent brief from the Partnership for Public Service and the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that over 10% of college seniors listed government as their ideal career. That’s plenty!
The students in our MPP program have tried to get federal jobs. USAJOBS is inadequate, the Presidential Management Program has deteriorated, and new Pathways hiring has not materialized. Budget cuts have limited the number of new hires. In testimony to the Senate this week, Max Stier, President of the Partnership for Public Service, told members that “the federal hiring process has become so slow, complex, opaque and imprecise in its ability to identify the best candidates that it is more likely to impede than facilitate the government’s ability to hire well. In addition, successful private sector best practices cannot be used in the federal government because of the overly complicated rules and regulations.”
Our students realize the odds are not in their favor, so they take positions with consulting firms that serve public sector clients. Since 2008, those choosing federal jobs have declined by half, with a corresponding increase in consulting jobs. Public sector consulting firms are perfectly reasonable choices for students with loans to repay, and often they work on important public sector issues. But many of our students would prefer government jobs, and as a taxpayer, I’d really like some of our smart students to be in charge of running the programs rather than consulting about them.
Many GovLoop readers are managers in government organizations and understand the importance of bringing new energy into your offices. You’re probably just as frustrated as our students are with the federal hiring process. How can we work together to make sure you get great new staff members? Here are my ideas:
- Push for interns in your office and treat them well. Introduce them to everyone. Give them a list of networking contacts you’d be willing to make for them. Allow them to telework. Feed them. Provide data for their capstone projects. Even unpaid internships are better than nothing. Many universities have funding for interns. We can also help you write a great job description.
- Make sure your interns have the best possible knowledge about how to get hired into your office. If you have specific skill requirements that will make them better qualified, tell them how to get those skills. If you have contractors who regularly place workers in your office, connect them. If you know of any upcoming direct hiring authority opportunities, tune them in.
- Encourage your agency to use the Pathways hiring authority to bring in new employees. This program is limited to recent graduates, which gives our students a fighting chance. A quick search of USAJOBS turned up only 87 Pathways Recent Graduate positions, most in DoD.
- Lobby OPM to fix the PMF program! Maybe you are in a position to influence this program, which was once quite prestigious. I will write more about the PMF in the coming weeks.
One student expressed his feelings this way:
“I have wanted to work for the federal government since I was 12 years old, and I pursued degrees and internships to position myself for a federal job. The office where I interned wanted to hire me and encouraged me to apply to a vacancy announcement, but they ended up cancelling the position because no desirable candidates made it through to the hiring manager. In other informational interviews, I heard similar stories. It is sad that eager, qualified, public-service minded people like me, at a time when better paying jobs are available and the DC climate is not ideal, can’t have an opportunity to serve.”