Government boosts recruitment efforts

L By Leila Kamgar

lOS ANGELES (U-WIRE) – Despite a multi-year economic downturn and a decline in private sector hiring, the federal government is stepping up its recruiting efforts on college campuses.

The government has been much more aggressive in its job recruiting this year, said Kathy Sims, director of the University of California-Los Angeles Career Center.

Federal recruiting on campus has been facilitated by a non-partisan organization that informs the university about upcoming recruiting events and job opportunities.

According to a report released by the Partnership for Public Service, the federal government will need to hire over 250,000 employees in the next two years to replace retiring workers and carry out the responsibilities associated with the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

But Sims, a 25-year veteran of career counseling, doesn’t foresee an immediate burgeoning of job opportunities.

“As of now, we don’t know the exact plan for how many entry-level jobs the new department will need to fill, and when they will fill them.”

Instead, a gradual increase in federal recruiting, as a result of the passage of the Homeland Security Act, is expected to start winter quarter.

The upswing in federal recruiting coincides with a downturn in private sector hiring.

“When the economy and job market slowed down, the government saw this as their window of opportunity to obtain highly qualified recruits,” Sims said.

The federal agencies recruiting at UCLA include the State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Administration.

As Sims explains, in the job market, everything is relative.

“If you’re in the job market when salaries are high, then you want that too, but now nobody in the private sector is offering those incentives; there are no signing bonuses this year.”

While last year jobs in the public sector were mostly student’s second choices, this year more students are considering government placement a good option.

UCLA students are more receptive to and prepared for government careers because of their internships experience, Sims said.

Even before graduation, there are several programs on campus that help students obtain government internships as a means of gaining valuable work experience and sometimes course credit.

But some students are deterred by a long applications process and low salaries.

Many federal departments dealing with security and intelligence require a lengthy security screening and application process.

Pay is also a consideration. According to a Partnership for Public Service report, law school debt prevented two-thirds of law students surveyed from considering employment in public service.

First-year law student Dave Abbott echoes this concern.

“Levels of debt and the long hours expected to work are among the factors why I wouldn’t put a career in the public sector as my top choice,” Abbott said.

While Sims said government jobs are open to all majors, some students still express doubts that a government career would fit their skills.

“I don’t really see a government job as the ideal fit for my skills,” fourth-year applied mathematics student Jennifer Cooke said.