Lawmakers concerned as millennials show little interest in public service

Steven Olikara, Founding President of the Millennial Action Project, says compensation and lack of recruiting are barriers to entry for millennials.
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Are millennials uninterested in public service? That’s a question lawmakers are pondering in Washington. Statistics show younger generations are scared off by federal government jobs.

"Bring back this sense of civic idealism that you can make a difference," said Steven Olikara, Founding President of the Millennial Action Project.

Millennials are shying away from public service. The goal of the Millennial Action Project is to bring American politics into a more inclusive and bipartisan age, by using the talents of younger generations.

"There’s this larger narrative that we have to combat which is that you can’t make a difference in public service," said Olikara. "The levels of distrust continue to be high levels. Something like 80 percent of millennials don’t trust the government to do the right thing."

Olikara says recruitment and compensation are two huge issues when it comes to incentivizing young people.

"There is a systemic problem, we need cultural change, and I think the biggest thing I hear all the time is, we need to be rewarding talent and rewarding results," said Olikara.

Lawmakers who are not millennials are well aware that this is a serious issue. So Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) held a hearing to examine just that.

"We think some of the best missions in the country are in public service, we just need to figure out how we’re going to communicate that to millennials," said Heitkamp.

She says 31 percent of the federal government is eligible for retirement in 2019. She and Lankford agree, a new wave has to come in, and soon. Lankford says, with long hiring processes, nothing moves quickly these days.

"Now (it takes) almost 100 days to be able to hire one federal employee," said Lankford. "That’s a major problem. Most people aren’t going to sit around and wait if they apply for a job, even if they want to be able to serve their fellow citizen."

"Hopefully we can spark some larger public debate around how we can encourage and incentivize," said Olikara.

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