Hiring Millennials is Critical

The federal workforce is aging. Among federal civilian employees, close to half are over the age of fifty. Roughly one-third, or 600,000, will be eligible to retire by September of 2017. A number of recent articles have discussed the federal government’s inability to bring in and retain young people. While agencies should certainly take steps to improve retention rates and influence their hiring processes, systemic obstacles—especially budget austerity— are likely to continue to make it difficult to attract, hire, and retain young workers.

This is a dangerous trend.

Given that roughly half of the current federal workforce will be over 60 in the next decade, many agencies are already preparing for a significant loss of experience and talent as long-time employees retire. For example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is taking several steps to transfer knowledge between long-tenured staff and more recent hires. Nonetheless, without talented younger employees in the pipeline, the capacity to serve the public could be dramatically impacted.

“We know hiring millennials is really critical to the future of the government,” said Katherine Archuleta, former director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Austerity will likely continue to wear on the federal workforce.

Today, roughly a quarter of American workers are under 30, but within the federal government’s civilian workforce that number is less than 8 percent. Austerity budgets undermine efforts to change the demographics of the federal government at multiple levels.

For example, budget cuts in recent years have led to hiring freezes, and with few new hires, opportunities for bringing in recent graduates and young professionals are slim. Tight budgets have also led to furloughs and pay freezes, making it less attractive for young people with other options to stick around.

In addition to making it hard to bring on and retain younger workers, budget austerity has also prevented investments in human resources departments and technology. Even when a job is open and available, a bulky employment website can make it difficult to understand the required qualifications, and a cumbersome hiring process can take months. 

Overhauling the USAJOBS website— the federal government’s official job listing site— and better utilizing social media to reach out to millennials could help attract more young people to apply for federal positions. Similarly, investments in training could improve federal human resources departments’ outreach to young professionals.

The call to public service is a proud American tradition. If the federal government loses top talent, experience, and institutional memory through retirements but cannot recruit, retain, and train highly qualified workers, it cannot be effective.  Addressing the federal government’s overall hiring process creates an opportunity for a high performing government with an infusion of new workers excited about public service, with fresh perspectives, and delivering services that American citizens value and deserve.


For Future Reading:

The $13 Billion Bottled Water Industry vs. the National Park Service...and American Hikers, Campers, Hunters, and Nature-LoversThe Fine Print, 8/3/2015

Survey Says: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Protecting Endangered Animals, Natural ResourcesThe Fine Print, 7/13/2015

Government Wins Protection for 33.8 Million Drivers in Largest Product Recall in U.S. HistoryThe Fine Print, 5/22/2014

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...a lot of us over 50 and figure we are better off continuing to work than retire for several reasons. For many of us Social Security is our only "pension" as retirement plans are so few these days. Next there are ever increasing living costs particularly for housing (where I live it is almost impossible to find even a studio apartment for under 800$ (and going up almost monthly) as well as there is a shortage of affordable housing in many cities. I'm 62 and while in about two months I can qualify for early retirement, it will be only 75 % of what I would receive at in four more years (not enough to afford even rent). This would mean having to also go on other assistance programmes like SNAP, ACA (our state has it's own plan), utility assistance etc. all which become a bigger drain on state/federal funds. With the current attacks by both Republican members of Congress and Presidential candidates on Social Security, Medicare, the ACA, SNAP, and other assistance programmes, the political winds for us older folks are not favouring the poor, especially the elderly poor. Many people lost their retirement savings during the last recession and pretty much now only have SSI to look forward to (however it was OK that the too big to fail banks which were the primary culprits in the economic downturn were bailed out to the tune of 500$ billion). Sadly, the Republican Party only have has themselves to blame for Social Security's woes after effectively "looting" the Trust for the last three decades. It all started with the Reagan administration which increased the SSA deduction in 1983 to generate a pool of funds to cover when my generation ready would be ready to retire. This was projected to generate 2.7$ trillion by 2010. Unfortunately at the same time, the Trust was also moved from its "protected" status into the General Fund which made it "fair game" for Congress to do what they wished like any other federal budget. It didn't take long before the Reagan Administration "borrowed" from it in an attempt to balance the budget after it's programme of tax cuts (which primarily benefited the wealthy) and sharply increased military spending. This trend continued through the administrations that followed, to again offset tax breaks which went to the wealthy as well as underwriting the costs for two foreign wars that did more to destabilise the Mideast than solve any issues. These "IOU's" as I like to call them are still "outstanding" yet the Republican party seems to have "conveniently" forgotten they exist and now claim the "sky is falling" and the Trust will be insolvent because my generation is retiring, So we become the scapegoats not only for Congress but for younger generations who feel we will deplete the fund before they are ready to retire (thank you Ronald Reagan, the Republican Right, and Tea Party). Many of us folks over 50 and even 60 lost our jobs during the recession. Many of us are still unemployed or underemployed (working part time) as ageism in the private sector is a common practise in hiring and even job retention these days. Yes it is against the law, but difficult to enforce as employers have so many ways to step around it with what I consider "excuses" rather than reasons. All a company needs to say is we're "Overqualified" (hate that word), "Not a good fit" (whatever that means), or the worst; "Your experience and qualifications are excellent, however the position has been filled". Hard to fight that when it comes down to your word against theirs. With Social Security on unsteady footing due to the Trust being looted for other programmes, for many of my generation it comes down to a choice of either stay in the workforce as long as possible, or end up on the streets panhandling for spare change. Giving preference to younger applicants over older ones in the public sector effectively gives an "official" rubber stamp to the practise of age discrimination in the workforce. With this kind of thinking, we may as well adopt a Logan's Run" solution to ageing, at least the end would be quick.