The federal IT workforce is struggling. Hiring hurdles, competition with industry and a shortage of current in-house talent are just some of the barriers leaders at agencies across the government face in establishing a cutting-edge IT workforce.

While those troubles aren’t new, some solutions in the pipeline are — and those plans are squarely aimed at attracting young prospective employees by appealing to the interests emerging from younger generations.

“Federal employees sacrifice [higher] pay for the mission,” Dorothy Aronson, National Science Foundation CIO, said Oct. 15 at the ACT-IAC Imagine Nation ELC 2018 conference in Philadelphia. Aronson pointed out that the desire to contribute is a prominent attribute for millennials, one that leaders across the government continue to try to harness in their recruitment efforts.

There are more than 100,000 federal employees in IT roles, but more than 13,000 jobs remain vacant in cyber areas alone, according to Debra Tomchek, vice president of consulting firm ICF and industry chair of ACT-IAC’s Evolving the Workforce Community of Interest. Furthermore, for every millennial federal employee, there are four baby boomer and Gen X employees.

It isn’t a viable forward trajectory, so agencies and partner organizations are launching major outreach efforts to not only recruit more millennials, but also create a sustainable conduit for a more dynamic, tech-savvy federal workforce.

According to Angelica Dortch, senior policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget, the federal CIO Council is preparing to launch 10 new workforce initiatives based on the President’s Management Agenda. The initiatives, yet to be launched but expected to be announced soon, are aimed at re-skilling and retraining in the federal workforce, as well as new authorities for faster hiring in critical IT and cybersecurity positions.

The ACT-IAC Evolving the Workforce COI has also been working on how to attract millennials to federal government jobs. At ELC Tomchek presented key concepts of the recently completed Talent as a Service project. ACT-IAC will soon be marketing the TaaS project to federal agencies interested in test-driving a system for effectively digitally crowdsourcing recruitment. Tomchek said they’re looking for agencies to experiment with social media outreach, talent profile design, and organizing and managing a talent pool. After a pilot period, the concept of operations would be evaluated and revised, she added.