According to Tapping America, a 2002 report by the Partnership for Public Service (PPS), the federal government needs to hire more than 250,000 employees within the next two years. At the same time, it is facing the looming prospect of a shortage of qualified workers, due in part to the retiring baby boomers and the reassignment of program managers and analysts to the Department of Homeland Security. The government has launched several initiatives to offset this shortage, but finding solutions to recruit and retain the best-qualified college graduates has become critical, as young college graduates prefer to work in the nonprofit or private sectors.
The disinterest of youth in public service has several reasons, including the image of government as unchallenging and unprofitable. This negative perception contributes to the difficulty recruiting qualified college graduates. Several programs have been implemented to deal with this problem. The PPS, for example, has developed a number of initiatives, including better recruitment of government interns, loan forgiveness programs, and Call to Serve. These efforts are positive but have overlooked recruiting those who would be most favorably disposed toward government work--volunteers.
Volunteers are highly motivated to help others and make a difference. They are driven by their commitment to solve social or political problems, not by monetary benefits. Several calls have been made, recently and throughout history, to serve through volunteering, most often to offset budgetary cuts and shrinking government. Volunteer rates of college students are at a record high. Approximately 3.3 million college students between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four have participated in volunteer activity throughout the United States. Volunteer contributions by college students are not simply "one-shot" stints--they include long-term, committed volunteers--nor do college students only volunteer in nonprofit organizations.
Many college students volunteer in federal government agencies. More significant, many of them are volunteering in agencies where new workers...