Blog Post

The Best and the Brightest

By: Dr. Jennifer Robinson, Ph.D.

The University of Utah is bustling with energy as thousands of students return to campus this fall. In seven months from now there will be a different sort of energy on campus as thousands of students prepare to graduate and embark on their careers.

Where will they go? A number of places—business, nursing, or Utah’s fast growing technology field to name a few. In total, millennials make up 23.5 percent of the entire workforce.
However, there is one place most millennials won’t be heading—public service.

According to a new survey by the Partnership for Public Service, millennials are not choosing public service for a career. In fact, millennials currently make up only 6.6 percent of the federal workforce. There are a number of reasons why these younger employees are not selecting jobs in the public sector, from the slow hiring process for many government jobs, lackluster internship programs, or the low pay of entry-level employees. Despite this, they are still interested in serving the public.

Instead, more and more students from public administration and public policy programs are looking to nonprofits or private companies to find ways to serve the public, but without sacrificing salary or work environment.

To combat this and attract these recent graduates to public service, some cities and states are changing the way they recruit, hire, and engage with employees. For some this means reaching prospective employees through social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. For others it means allowing more flexible work schedules—something that millennials tend to prioritize.

As baby boomers grow older and begin retiring, there will be a large need for new employees across all sectors, including the public sector. To ensure there is a sufficient supply of talented and capable public servants, cities, states, and the federal government must find ways to attract and retain the best and the brightest of the millennial generation. The future depends on it.

Jennifer Robinson is the associate director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.