College grads uninterested in government careers

The federal government is facing serious issues with recruiting and attracting new talent as a new report reveals that only a trivial number of college graduates are considering a public service career.

The Partnership for Public Service analyzed the results of the 2011 National Association of Colleges and Employers Survey that asked more than 35,000 students about their employment plans, including what they would like in their first job, their salary expectations and whether they intend to work in the public sector.

The findings show that only 6 percent of the polled college students said they plan to embark on a state or local government career after they graduate. An even smaller number (2.3 percent) reported they intend to work for the U.S. federal government after finishing school.


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“This is a warning sign for the federal government,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “Historically, most federal agencies shut down their relationships with universities and stopped hiring young folks and got out of the business of recruiting, and that’s a big mistake.”

The survey found that more former government interns (17.9 percent) plan on joining the federal government than students without that experience, yet 25 percent say they favor private sector employment.

Agencies should strengthen their ties with academia in order to attract talent, and part of their strategy should involve doubling down on internship programs, Stier said. “College campuses also need to advise faculty so they have a better sense about the job opportunities in the federal government,” he said.

The lack of information about federal careers, coupled with the cumbersome hiring process, factor into to why government jobs are “not even on [students’] radar screens,” Stier said. NACE data also show a year-to-year diminishing interest among students to join the government. In 2008, 8.4 percent of the respondents said they planned to work at the local, state or federal level. That number hit the 10- percent mark in 2009, but fell to 7.4 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 2011, according to the report.

“I can’t say it’s surprising,” he continued, “but it’s alarming that these numbers have dropped as low as they have. It’s also indicative of the times we’re living in that  if our political leaders bash the federal workforce, that only decreases the likelihood that more talent want to go to government, which means we’re going to get less good government and I don’t think that’s the results we want.”

 

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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