By 2004, 53 percent of the federal workforce will have qualified for retirement. In addition, seventy-one percent of the government’s senior managers will be able to retire then. However, studies show that increasingly fewer of the nation’s top graduates are interested in federal employment.
It is this trend which has prompted Cornell University President Hunter R. Rawlings III to join the board of governors of the Partnership for Public Service, a new nonpartisan organization that seeks to restore public confidence and prestige to federal civil service.
“The Partnership for Public Service is a group of distinguished Americans who will be working on programs to improve the public perception of public service,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.
The partnership hopes to attract qualified graduates to the field of civil service through an aggressive campaign of public-private partnerships, as well as focused research and educational efforts.
The Partnership for Public Service was officially launched on Oct. 23 at a news conference in Washington, D.C. Its 36-member board includes business leaders and politicians, as well as 10 university presidents.
Joining Rawlings on the board of governors are U.S. Senators Richard Durbin and Joseph Lieberman; former Senator Bill Bradley; Elizabeth Dole; John Hennessey, president of Stanford University; Richard C. Levin, president of Yale University; and Judith Rodin, president of the University of Pennsylvania, among others.
According to the organization’s website, a survey several years ago found that only 1 in 10 Phi Beta Kappa graduates rated the federal government as
their first choice for an employer. Compounding this problem is the fact that twenty years ago, three-quarters of the graduates of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government went to work for government, but today that figure has fallen to one-third.
According to Dullea, the Partnership for Public Service was not created in response to the Sept. 11 tragedy. Rather, the organization was created long before the events, in preparation for the possible shortage of federal
workers the government may face within the next few years.
The organization has, however, conducted research since Sept. 11. An analysis of a recent poll concluded that it will require more than appeal to patriotism to attract talented graduates to civil service jobs.
According to this research, prior to Sept. 11, only 16 percent of college-educated respondents expressed significant interest in working for the federal government. After September 11th, 80 percent of respondents said their interest in federal jobs had either stayed the same or decreased. Interest in federal jobs stayed constant or decreased among respondents following the Sept. 11 attacks despite the finding that 91 percent of respondents said the federal government functioned “very” or “fairly well” in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. These results show that although citizens may have faith in the federal government, they do not consider entering the industry themselves.
“Surveys show that interest in federal employment is declining, even while more and more graduates of the nation’s top universities, including Cornell, are expressing the desire to work to improve society and their communities,” Rawlings said. “One of the partnership’s important goals is to encourage qualified young people to explore careers in federal service so that government may recruit and retain a highly talented work force.”
The organization’s work will include creating a communications program that will improve public understanding and perception of government service; implementing an education and outreach effort to inform talented students and mid-career workers about employment opportunities in government; and aiding federal agencies to create better work environments to retain workers.
According to Dullea, the partnership also plans to analyze the civil service rules and regulations to determine if any laws are preventing the government from hiring and retaining the best workers.
The group has planned a conference for this month, during which the board of governors will review current research and develop a research agenda. Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government will also be involved in the partnership’s future research endeavors, Dullea said.
The Partnership for Public Service is funded by a $25 million gift from Samuel J. Heyman, CEO and president of GAF Corp.
Archived article by Stephanie Hankin