Attracting Young Americans to Federal Service

The Partnership for Public Service announced a new initiative to understand the best ways to attract young Americans to federal government service.

President Bush’s Chief of Staff Andrew Card recently spoke to more than 2,000 summer interns about the value of public service, as the Partnership for Public Service announced a new initiative to better understand the best ways to attract young Americans to federal government service.

“Participation in the political process is essential to the future of our democracy,” said Card, who addressed the interns at a federal jobs information session. “Whether your interests are in economics or engineering, every one of you has something to offer in government service, and I challenge you to answer the nation’s call to serve.”

Card was introduced by Linda M. Springer, director of the Office of Personnel Management. "I encourage young people to consider a career with the federal government," said Springer. “By working for America, you have the opportunity to make a very real difference in the lives of others and serve a cause greater than yourself."

Half of the 1.9 million current federal employees will be eligible to retire in the next five years, and the Partnership’s research shows that Uncle Sam must work harder to attract college students to public service jobs. A 2002 survey found that college students know very little about employment opportunities in the federal government: only 21% of them ever recalled a federal recruiter visiting their campus. And a 2005 survey of graduating college seniors found that only 23% were “very interested” in working for the government.

To raise awareness of public service opportunities and increase the number of young Americans placed in federal jobs, the Partnership is launching the Call to Serve Recruitment Initiative, a pilot project with five universities: The George Washington University, The Ohio State University, Stanford University, University of New Mexico, and Clark Atlanta University (other schools may be added). The pilot will test specific, cost-effective recruitment methods and evaluate how well they work with a college audience, helping federal agencies improve their recruiting activities and increase the flow of information about federal jobs to faculty, administrators, career services staff, and students.

“Today’s college students are service-oriented, but savvy. They want a job that will allow them to make a difference while building a meaningful career,” Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership. “Government offers them the chance to do both, but this message hasn’t been getting through. Our goal is to change the stereotypes that have held people back from pursuing government jobs, and this project is the first step.”

Nine federal agencies will serve as advisors to the pilot project: OPM, the Departments of Defense, State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, CIA, NASA, Government Accountability Office, and the Social Security Administration.

The Call to Serve Recruitment Initiative is part of the Call to Serve program, a network created in 2002 by the Partnership and OPM to educate young Americans about government careers. The network currently consists of 552 colleges and universities and 62 federal agency partners.

The findings of this project will allow the Partnership and federal agencies to replicate successful recruitment methods at other Call to Serve campuses in years to come. Some of the presidents of the participating universities voiced their support for the project:

“The University of New Mexico, with 33,000 students from diverse cultural backgrounds, is honored to have been selected as a pilot university for the Partnership for Public Service,” said University of New Mexico President Louis Caldera. “The millennium generation, populating our universities today, is eager for jobs where they can make a difference and impact communities. The Partnership will open their eyes to new and rewarding public service career possibilities that we believe they are ready to consider.”

“We are extremely pleased that Clark Atlanta University was selected to participate in the partnership. Our motto is ‘A Culture for Service,’” said Clark Atlanta University President Walter D. Broadnax. “This project presents a tremendous opportunity to expose our students to service learning while gaining real world experiences in the federal government. CAU is committed to populating the world with highly educated leaders who have a passion for excellence and a commitment to service.”