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July 26, 2002
College Students Shying Away From Gov't Jobs
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A poll released last week shows that young people considering seeking employment in the public sector are discouraged by the government's reputation of being a boring, callous employer, the Washington Post reports. Most college students polled said that stuffy, inflexible and outdated working practices were reasons for reconsidering working for the government.

While students gave the government credit for nondiscriminatory hiring practices and good benefits, they complained that it was hard to find a government job. Many students also complained about the arduous and lengthy application process. Their main objection was not pay, the Post reports, but the anticipation of dull work.

The poll was conducted last month by Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates Inc., and polled 1,022 college juniors and seniors. According to the Post, just 40 percent of those polled said they were considering working for the government.

"We did the poll after 9/11, when there was a huge amount of optimism about federal government, higher than in recent years," Penn told the Post. "But Uncle Sam is perceived as an uncaring employer, bureaucratic and old-fashioned. Although there is a lot of interest, it does not translate into students really going after those jobs."

Jeffrey Neal, director of human resources for the Defense Logistics Agency told the Post that the government should be concerned about the poll's findings. He and Linda J. Bilmes commissioned the poll as research for a book they are writing on the business practices of leading companies that the government should adopt.

Neal further noted that the workers who heeded President John F. Kennedy's call to work for the government in the 1960's and 70's should be retiring soon.

"If we don't reform . . . then the government is heading for a train wreck," Neal said.

The government began a recruitment initiative in April in cooperation with 350 colleges. "A Call to Serve" is aimed at filling positions vacated by retirements and new demands for homeland security positions, the Post reports.

The new poll found that three-quarters of students have a high opinion of government workers and generally think that government employees have important jobs. Hispanics were the ethnic group most likely (51 percent) to want government positions.

Private corporations rated higher than the federal government on almost every value that students look for in an employer. The Post reports that some of these values include the potential to "go high," caring management, family-friendly policies, salary and the opportunity to try new things.

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