Editorial: A workforce window

The government has a real opportunity to marry the experience of age with the new thoughts, ideas and energy of a younger workforce.

For years, we have all read breathless articles about an impending shortage of government workers — the workforce tsunami, as it has been called. However, what we have noticed so far has been a constant drip, drip, drip — not a tsunami. We certainly don’t believe that the government has dodged the workforce tsunami. Larger-than-usual numbers of government workers are going to retire in the coming years. It could be sooner or later. The government has a real opportunity to marry the experience of age with the new thoughts, ideas and energy of a younger workforce. Unfortunately, the government seems particularly inept at tapping into the experience that younger employees have to offer. We have heard stories of young people who get government scholarships — scholarships paid for out of agency coffers — and are eager to join a government agency, only to be pointed to the USAJobs.gov Web site. As good as a Web site can be, having a jobs site hardly counts as a strategic effort to prioritize public service. In recent months and years, we have had the opportunity to spend time with the so-called millennials — young people who have always lived in a hyperlinked world. That group includes two classes of Rising Star award winners. Today, perhaps more than at any other time, younger generations can offer new ways to solve old problems. The social-networked Web 2.0 world gives us a glimpse into a sphere of possibilities where information sharing is the norm rather than the exception. The millennials are searching for ways to contribute. They don’t simply want a job. They want to be part of a mission. Public service agencies should be uniquely qualified to tap into this generation. We live in a rapidly changing world. It presents huge challenges at the same time as it offers great opportunities. With an upcoming election, the government has an opportunity to attract a new generation of public-service employees and bring about change that even longtime feds believe is overdue. That transformation will require more than building a jobs Web site. It will require hard work, but we believe it also will offer opportunities to improve government now and in the future.
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