Veterans, STEMM fields see steady increase in federal workforce

Wednesday - 7/9/2014, 6:00pm EDT

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New hiring in the federal government dropped by more than 13,000 in fiscal 2013, amounting to a 46.4 percent decline in hiring over the past four years.

A newly released analysis from the Partnership for Public Service outlines statistics and trends about the nearly 77,000 new employees hired in 2013.

Although overall hiring has declined since 2010, two groups continue to show steady increases in the federal workforce.

Forty-five percent of new hires in 2013 were veterans, an increase from 35 percent of new hires in 2008. Veterans now comprise about 32 percent of the total federal workforce.

Part of the increase can be attributed to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, in which he mandated agencies to employ veterans at higher rates.

"Very specific initiatives from agencies have actually resulted in very specific outcomes," said Tim McManus, vice president for education and outreach at the partnership. "An increased focus by the administration, by the Office of Personnel Management, by individual agencies to hire vets, has resulted in the increase in the hiring of vets."

In addition, new hires in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) fields have risen steadily since 2005. About 39 percent of new hires in 2013 were employees in STEMM fields, a 10 percent increase since 2009 and 15 percent increase since 2005.

"The percentage of employees hired for STEMM occupations has continued to increase during the past few years, underscoring the government's need for individuals with high levels of education and professional skills," the partnership wrote.

The Veterans Affairs Department led the list in hiring, taking on 33 percent of the new hires in 2013.

"That's not unanticipated given their mission and the focus on serving veterans returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," McManus said.

But employees under age 30 — the so-called "millennials" or "generation Y" — make up only a marginal portion of the federal workforce. The percentage of millennials fell to 7 percent in 2013 — an eight-year low for the government.

Despite this, 24 percent of new hires in 2013 were under the age of 30, and more than 50 percent of new hires were under age 40.

"Look specifically within agencies and say, 'What are we actually doing or not doing that helps us attract demographic audiences we need to reach, whether it be women, whether it be minorities, whether it be people under 30," McManus said.

McManus said he was "pleasantly surprised" that more than 63 percent of new hires in 2013 entered the workforce in entry-level positions, classified by the partnership as General Schedule levels one through nine.

Often when an employee in a senior or management position leaves, "the easy thing to do is reach into drawer, dust off the old position description and repost it for a GS-14," McManus said.

He said the partnership's analysis shows that's not necessarily what's happening in reality.

Rather, agencies are focused on "bringing in new talent [and] the ability to develop that talent, so you've got a perpetual pipeline of talent for the right job at the right point in time," McManus said.

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