By Steve Kelman

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The Lectern: More on kids and contracting

I spoke at a meeting of agency contracting folks today, and around halfway back in the room, there were two rows of young contracting professionals, pretty much all sitting together. I started off by mentioning that Jason Whetsell, the young contracting professional at OPM whom I mentioned in an earlier blog, has established a new Facebook group called "Government 1102's/contracting/procurement professionals," and inviting people to join. (I extend this invitation to readers of this blog. So far the group has only 5 members, two of whom are Chris Dorobek, my fellow-FCW blogger and I -- but hey, the group is only a few days old.) But I also got a question from one of the older folks about what the government could do to attract and retain young people in contracting. In addition to sharing my own thoughts, I asked the young people in the audience what their views were.

What did they say? Readers of this blog and of my columns won't find too much surprising here -- but it is, as we social scientists say, another "data point."

They wanted to feel that their jobs connected with achieving the missions of their agency. They wanted to be given more challenging and meaningful assignments. They didn't want the system to treat them as if they are presumed to be criminals until proven otherwise.

They found contracting work at its best to be really lots of fun and challenging.

They complained about how long the government takes to make hiring decisions -- "The good people usually won't wait for the time it takes for the government to get around to making an offer." They really liked agency college debt repayment programs (and stated that agencies that have these programs have a real leg up in attracting young talent). And they said the government needs to find a new word to explain what it is they do -- young people don't have a clue if you say "procurement." One suggested renaming the contracting office "Office of Business Advice." I mentioned that there is business advice about subjects other than contracting.

Here's my nomination for a moniker to re-brand procurement -- how about if an office calls itself "Office of Contracting Business Solutions"?

What do you think? Post a comment on this blog (registration required) or send an e-mail to [email protected] and we will post it for you.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Apr 03, 2008 at 12:09 PM


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