Attracting Younger Talent to Government is No Laughing Matter

Chuck Brooks, vice president and client executive, Department of Homeland Security

It seems that clowns and the government have a lot more in common than we may think. How? A shortage of talent. The New York Daily News recently reported that we may be on the brink of a national clown shortage. Older clowns are retiring, while today’s youth can’t find the “cool” factor in pursuing a career as a clown. Similarly, the federal government is finding that many college graduates are not interested in public sector jobs, including IT. In fact, a recent survey cited that less than six percent of college graduates list the federal government as their ideal job. This is a scary thought since the baby boomers who make up a good chunk of the public sector IT workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next few years. Local, state and federal governments should be concerned with replacing the workforce and need to start making changes in order to attract younger talent to government IT.

Just as the “Greatest Show on Earth” needs talented clowns to promote their brand and entertain audiences in a meaningful way, the government needs new IT talent in order to make a difference in the public sector. When it comes to innovation, government agencies have a reputation of being stagnant and behind the times. But, government innovation is thriving and technology is the backbone of this revolution. In order to keep moving forward, there needs to be a concerted effort to attract younger, fresh, new talent to federal jobs. To change the downward spiral, agencies must first change the perception of government innovation and then educate millennials on the opportunities that exist in the federal arena. The drive and passion of the millennial generation is the key to success, and agencies must begin to focus on bringing in graduates in order to serve the people of the United States better.

As stated above, many people believe that government agencies are behind the times when it comes to innovation, when in fact this is not the case at all. Government agencies are making huge strides with technology and utilizing it to improve processes. Local agencies are using cameras and big data to inform citizens when a parking garage or parking space is full.  Social media makes it easier now more than ever for citizens to connect with and assist government agencies; for example, citizens can tweet FEMA about power issues during a natural disaster, and recently, Twitter was used to aid the Washington mudslide response teams. The Navy is making major breakthroughs, turning seawater into jet fuel to lower our dependency on oil and other polluting fuel sources. Predictive analytics projects, like one in Indiana to lower infant mortality, are helping improve government efficiency and save money. Innovation is booming in government and agencies need to publicize these major initiatives to make sure everyone understands the significant advancements the government is making due to state-of-the-art technology and first-class innovation.

Without knowing what type of technology jobs and opportunities exist in the government, millennials will not be interested in pursuing them. Just like any other field, students must understand the industry and potential opportunities. Agencies need to ramp up their campus recruiting and educate the younger generation on job opportunities and get them excited about advancing government. The government should partner with technology schools, give presentations and attend job fairs to educate students.

Government agencies also need to make sure they are properly marketing the benefits of working in government, especially those that are important to the younger workforce. Millennials want to see that a company will be invested in them professionally and personally, so agencies should emphasize ongoing education, skill development opportunities and the comprehensive benefit packages offered to employees. Millennials also want to make a difference in the world. The public sector needs to showcase how joining a federal team is a great way for them to make a lasting impact and better serve the entire country.

Once the younger generation is interested in pursuing a career in the public sector, agencies must make sure they continue to adapt and respond to the needs of their talent. Working with them and developing programs and processes to enhance their productivity and increase job satisfaction will keep younger employees motivated and invested. Today, flexibility and the ability to adapt to change are very important characteristics to succeed in any industry. If the government doesn’t continue to adjust and transform with the new age, they will lose the bright young talent they worked so hard to secure.

While start-up companies are all the rage, government IT is entering an era that is potentially just as “cool.” From app and website development to life-changing data analytic projects, it is an exciting time for government technology. While it may sound silly, the government could certainly use a few good clowns to keep this innovation moving.

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