By DAVID M. JOHNSON
WASHINGTON (Sept. 5, 2009)—The place to find a job in today's lagging economy is the federal government, according to the Partnership for Public Service.
Between baby boomer retirements and new government initiatives, roughly 273,000 jobs are projected to become available within the next three years, a 40 percent increase over predictions made just three years ago, the organization said in a news conference Thursday.
While federal vacancies exist nationwide, Maryland is likely to benefit from federal hiring. Nearly 14 percent of federal positions are in Washington, D.C., or suburban Maryland.
"While much of the economy is still pretty turbulent, what we learned is there is a lot of solid opportunity, by contrast with the federal government," said Rick Hearin, who directs the University of Maryland, College Park Career Center. "This is like the sun shining on an otherwise dark day."
Federal agencies competing for qualified workers plan to use President Obama's focus on national service to compete with the private sector.
"We have a talent market that has, by and large, at least in recent times, not seen government service as part of public service, but that is changing," said Max Stier, partnership president and CEO. "We have a president that has made it a priority to make government cool again."
While government employment is not typically on recent graduates' radar screen, the turbulent economy may force them to reconsider, Hearin said.
"Given the fact that so many organizations and employers in the private sector are pulling back (at) the same time federal government is expanding, in terms of opportunity, it will become part of the campus culture," Hearin said. "It may be just as cool to work for the Department of Homeland Security or Department of Treasury as it is for Microsoft or Google. That's a long row to hoe, but it's doable."
According to Jeff Neal, chief human capital officer of the Department of Homeland Security, unless the federal government changes its hiring process, they may have a difficult time filling all the critical positions.
"Most people find that our hiring process is sometimes a barrier to getting people into the federal government and filling our jobs," Neal said. "We need to do a lot to streamline the process."
Hearin has observed the difficulties of the federal hiring process as well.
"The application process is so daunting that applicants that are otherwise are well qualified get discouraged and conclude falsely that they're not attractive candidates," Hearin said.
Even with all the new hiring, the national work force will still be smaller than it was in 1967, according to projections.
"It's important to note that while there has been considerable growth in mission-critical jobs, the government is not growing significantly in historical terms," said Stier.
Many of the new hires, according to Stier, will fill positions that previously went to contractors.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.