GAO recruiting campaign targets young watchdogs

The agency responsible for shining a spotlight on the government's human capital crisis has launched its own recruiting campaign in an effort to become a familiar face on college campuses around the country. The General Accounting Office, the watchdog agency that reports on the executive branch to Congress, is trying to attract graduates with degrees in information technology, accounting and public policy. Sally Jaggar, mission support managing director at GAO, said the hiring campaign kicked into high gear last fall, and the agency is actively recruiting on about 50 campuses, including Washington-area schools. The recruiting campaign is in full swing despite President Bush's decision to put a hold on all hiring at executive branch agencies until his appointees can approve personnel decisions. GAO is a part of the legislative branch. "We have people who are at the SES [senior executive service] level participating and taking leadership roles in coordinating many recruiting activities," said Jaggar. Recent hires are working alongside federal managers to reach out to people who believe in GAO's core values of accountability, integrity and reliability in government reporting, she said. "We are taking recently hired alumni with us to schools to establish a rapport with the students. That is really the hallmark of our on-campus activities," Jaggar said. Recruiting a diverse entry-level group of employees is a central goal of the campaign. "In our selection of schools and recruiting activities, there is a lot of focus on diversity. It is a key part of our message," said Jaggar. GAO also participates in career fairs, when possible, and has a thriving summer internship program, said Jaggar. Many public policy schools are bringing students to GAO this spring to get a hands-on look at the type of work the agency performs, and Jaggar hopes all these activities will yield a bumper crop of interns. "We are trying to really make sure that the internship program is an excellent one, and that we can make job offers in the fall to those interns who perform well over the summer," she said. Jaggar believes the face time on campus is paying off. The agency hopes to fill more than 200 entry-level jobs in fiscal 2001, and GAO has made about 100 offers thus far, including several to last summer's interns. "Approximately 40 entry-level people have accepted the offers we have made, and we are particularly pleased that we are getting a good acceptance rate from interns," said Jaggar.

More than one-third of the employees in the federal workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. Comptroller General David Walker has been publicizing problems with federal workforce planning on Capitol Hill and in GAO reports for years.

Earlier this month, GAO released its biennial report on the federal government's biggest management challenges, naming workforce management as a "high-risk" area for the first time.

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