In Search of Public Service

Light, P.C.
Center for Public Service, The Brookings Institution,

Contrary to those who say that government must become more
businesslike to compete, college seniors almost surely would recommend that government become more nonprofit-like, especially in reassuring potential recruits that they will be given a chance to help people. This emphatic interest in helping people suggests an extraordinary opportunity for public-service organizations to make their case to a motivated workforce: 26 percent of the seniors said they had given very serious consideration to any kind of public-service job, be it working for government, a nonprofit, or a contractor, while another 36 percent had given it somewhat serious consideration.
Although the Center does not have the data to establish a trend line to the past- meaning that this year's number could be up or down from past years-it is hard to imagine how the numbers could be much higher. The question is whether public-service organizations have the agility, let alone the funding, to take advantage of the opportunity. After all, the job market is cold in large part because organizations in all three sectors do not have the money for hiring. For those who are particularly concerned about increasing government's success in the war for talent, this report supports the need for quick action to streamline the hiring process and bolster its reputation as a place where young Americans can make a difference in serving the country. The faster it moves to send a dramatic signal that it is ready to provide the kind of work young Americans clearly want, the faster it can begin strengthening its workforce for the future. This is only one of several significant findings bearing on the future of the public service in the Center's survey of 1,002 college seniors pursuing the humanities, social sciences, social work, and education.

Wagner Faculty