Gov Careers

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 12:13 PM


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