Government works to streamline hiring, fill hundreds of jobs

The government reports that almost half of its employees can retire in the next five years.

Jared Roddy

After decades of little or no hiring, the federal government is preparing to fill hundreds of jobs that will soon empty nationwide.

Government officials report almost half of the federal government’s employees can retire within the next five years. To help fill the jobs, private companies will work with government agencies to streamline the hiring process.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Department of Education and the National Nuclear Security Administration have asked The Partnership for Public Service to help fill hundreds of new positions and prepare to replace the thousands of employees soon facing retirement.

Private companies, such as Monster Government Solutions and several other human resources giants, have agreed to assist these agencies without pay.

“These central agencies haven’t been good at marketing themselves,” said Marcia Marsh, vice president of agency partnerships for The Partnership for Public Service. “We need to change that.”

College graduates overlook government jobs because they have historically not hired much, nor marketed job openings, said Sharon Kurtt, Institute of Technology career services director.

“There is a real lack of knowledge,” Kurtt said. “For so many years, the government hired so few people, so they have a lack of visibility.”

Kurtt said aging baby boomers nearing retirement are also a problem at the state and city government levels.

Just looking for a government position at the federal government job Web site USAjobs.opm.gov, which was reformatted by Monster, used to be tedious, said Roger Campbell, human capital strategy director at Monster Government Solutions. Before they reformatted the Web site, job seekers often navigated through dozens of Web pages only to realize they were not qualified, he said.

Applying for a federal job has been tougher than finding a job opening, Marsh said. It can take as long as six months to hear from employers, and candidates often will not hear about the status of their application, she said.

A recent survey found that 69 percent of college juniors and seniors will not wait that long to hear about their applications, Marsh said.

“I’d probably let it go,” mechanical engineering student Ross Wagnild said.

Speeding up the process is one goal in the new program, said Jerry Truax, National Nuclear Security Administration intern program manager.

“I think the biggest change will be the speed with which we’ll be able to make job offers,” Truax said. Until now, the slow process caused government agencies to lose desirable candidates to private companies, he said.

“Historically, we’ve gone to college campuses and competed against the private sector that can make job offers immediately,” Truax said.

The National Nuclear Security Administration manages the nation’s nuclear weapons, works for nonproliferation and helps the Navy’s fleet of nuclear vessels. Truax said the agency needs engineers and physical scientists.

Besides job openings, as many as 100 National Nuclear Security Administration internships will be offered, Truax said.

Kurtt said any government jobs or internships look excellent on a resume.

“It’s a great path; I would definitely suggest people look at it,” Kurtt said. “I always bring it up as something (students) haven’t considered.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will hire 500 people in the upcoming year, Campbell said.

The Department of Education also needs to fill jobs that are similar to private sector employment, Marsh said.

One job option is federal student aid, she said, in which people can work for the federal government and help provide financial services to students.

Campbell said the cooperation between private companies and the government has been incredible.

“When you deal with different organizations and solutions and try to do everything yesterday, the hardest thing is managing expectations,” he said.

The USAJOBS Web site has aided prospective employees, Kurtt said, but few people are aware of it.

“They are trying to attract people, but change is slow,” Kurtt said. “And despite the fact that they have this site, it’s hard to convince people to apply for these jobs.”

It’s unfortunate, she said, because these jobs have a reputation for having good benefits and stability.

Wagnild said he knows about the benefits of government work but remains skeptical.

“Money and benefits are one thing, but the environment you work in is a large factor,” he said.

Wagnild said he also cares about the employer’s reputation. A bad image has dogged the federal government’s hiring practices for years, some Partnership for Public Service officials said.

“Some are skeptical this can even be done,” Marsh said. “The hard part is persuading the people to change.”

Kurtt said the Minnesota College and University Career Services Association is trying to promote these job openings as well. A government job and internship fair is scheduled for Oct. 29 at College of St. Catherine’s.