A boom in the federal workforce

Partnership for Public Service and IBM initiate innovative retiree hiring program

Study: Boomers attracted to fed jobs

The Partnership for Public Service has released a new report, "A Golden Opportunity: Recruiting Baby Boomers into Government," that makes the case for hiring older, experienced workers to fill mission-critical federal jobs.

In a nationwide survey of older workers, PPS found that 79 percent of those ages 55 to 59 plan to work at least six more years.

The survey report states that 53 percent of older workers are at least somewhat interested in federal employment, and more than a quarter are extremely or very interested.

Fifty-eight percent agreed that “there are good jobs for people like me in the federal government.” The government’s talent needs include medical, public health, accounting and engineering skills, according to the report.

The report also flags barriers to hiring older workers, including a lack of knowledge about job opportunities, negative perceptions of government and a broken hiring process.

— Richard W. Walker

The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service (PPS) and IBM are partners in a program at the Treasury Department to identify, recruit and hire older IBM employees and retirees. Treasury officials say they must fill 14,000 mission-critical jobs during the next two years, many of them requiring skills in information technology, procurement and accounting.

Linda Springer, director of the Office of Personnel Management and a supporter of the hiring initiative, said baby boomers are willing and able to fill critical skill gaps in the government workforce as federal workers retire in the coming years.

“We are fully behind the notion that we need to reach out to the corporate sector to people who are ending their careers there and looking for ways to engage and maybe particularly value at that point the opportunity for public service,” Springer said.

The FedExperience Transitions to Government hiring initiative could help the government fill critical needs with the talents of baby boomers looking for stimulating second careers instead of retiring to the golf course.

Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of PPS, described the project as a potential win-win-win situation. “Boomers get their second career where they can find meaningful work, our government gets the talent it needs to fill looming shortages, and the American people get a government that has the talent” to serve the people, he said.

Springer said the PPS/IBM initiative at Treasury is in line with OPM’s Career Patterns program that promotes innovative approaches to recruiting, hiring and retaining the next generation of federal workers. That includes bringing retirees from private industry into government service.

“Public service touches every single person,” Springer said. “You may have been in the largest corporation in the world touching a wide variety of sectors and individuals, but when you’re with [the government], you’re touching everybody.”

Springer joked about the IBM/Treasury initiative, “There’s no chance that we’re going to be involved in a corporate merger, we’re not publicly traded, and there’s no takeover risk.”

Springer added that many aspects of federal service should appeal to private-sector retirees, including the presence of an established infrastructure in which to work.

“You don’t have to go out and start your own business,” she said. “If you want to work on a cure for cancer, you can go work” for the National Institutes of Health.

The old stereotypes about government work are wrong, Springer said. “This is not about sitting in Washington, D.C., at an old, gray metal desk from nine to five doing something that’s boring. This is about some really exciting things. There is nothing that you could want to do that you can’t do as part of the U.S. government.”

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