Exclusive PWGSC launches recruitment campaign to bridge baby boomer gap

Diane Lorenzato, assistant deputy minister, human resources, Public Works and Government Services Canada

With baby boomers set to retire over the next five years, companies are becoming more innovative with how they attract and retain new workers, and the public sector is no exception.

Last month, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) launched a multi-media campaign aimed at attracting younger workers and recent post-secondary graduates in order to fill a shortage of over 300 workers within PWGSC.

Diane Lorenzato, assistant deputy minister of human resources at PWGSC, stresses that there is a need to ensure that PWGSC has the right skill sets to deliver on its mandate, and related programs and services.

“The baby boomer retirement is a big factor,” says Lorenzato. “The other big factor is that the Office of the Privy Council has clearly emphasized public service renewal as one of the key priorities for government.”

Lorenzato adds the government needs to start building today in order to ensure that they have the public service that’s needed for the future.

“Renewal is a key priority for all departments, we’ve decided to work together and ensure that we take a Government of Canada approach to launching our post-secondary recruitment campaign,” she says.

Over the next five years approximately 30 per cent of full-time workers in PWGSC will be eligible for retirement, Lorenzato says.

The multi-media recruitment campaign was launched on the PWGSC Web site on September 17th .

“The focal point of our marketing campaign was to really build a recruitment Web site that would target graduate, college and university students, and would be relevant to them,” says Lorenzato.

Chris Drummond, vice-president of marketing for Toronto-based recruitment firm CNC Global, says the Internet is an optimal place to be if you want to build an awareness campaign, particularly one aimed at a younger audience.

“If I were recommending anything to the federal government, it would be to spend a little time on the Internet and get to know it a little better as an avenue for both getting their message out, and attracting interest,” says Drummond.

Getting the message out and attracting interest from that younger audience is one of the aims of the campaign, says Lorenzato. The theme of the campaign is, “Your career, your life. Find your niche with us”.

“The reason we chose that theme is that PWGSC has such an array of disciplines that you can virtually find your niche in any part of our department and have a very exciting career,” she says.

In line with being relevant to a younger audience, the campaign also includes video-clips of PWGSC “ambassadors”, which Lorenzato explains are young employees that joined the department within the past few years.

“These ambassadors are passionate about what they do,” she says. “We didn’t give them a script; we just put them in front of a camera and asked them to tell us what is it that they enjoy about working at PWGSC, so it’s their own perception that is coming across in those video clips.”

According to Dave Tighe, director for public sector recruiting solutions at CNC Global, another factor that’s important to establishing, creating and promoting an employer “brand” from the government perspective, is ensuring that the applicant has a positive experience in the hiring process.

“With the Ontario Government, we’ve done something as simple as creating and managing an employee hotline where candidates that have submitted applications to the government can call that 1-800 number anytime, and within four business hours they’ll receive a response,” says Tighe.

He adds that as baby boomers retire, senior and mid-level positions will be need to be filled. In certain instances, some former government employees have returned on a consultant basis in order to bridge the gap, according to Tighe.

“We really have seen a sincere effort on behalf of the government to try to rejuvenate the lower and mid-levels of the public service,” says Tighe. “They recognize there is a shortage of mid-level talent…so you see a lot of people coming back as consultants; you also see government attempting to be more competitive in attracting those mid-level free agents.”

The second phase of the PWGSC’s recruitment campaign, is a mid-career professional recruitment strategy, which will be key in helping the department maintain the necessary workforce, says Lorenzato.

“When we look at our demographics we have people who will be retiring over the next five years that are at the management level, across all levels,” she says. “We need to identify where there’ll be a gap, and how we’re going to bring people to a level of readiness to take on those positions as they become available.”

“It’s good to recruit new employees, but you also have to make sure that for the workers that you have, that there will be a retention strategy, succession planning and development programs that will help those people move along faster,” says Lorenzato.

One of the areas in which PWGSC has identified a worker shortage is the Information Technology Services Branch (ITSB), says Lorenzato.

“ITSB is really there to attract what we call the ‘technical wizards’,” says Lorenzato. “ITSB is a microcosm of PWGSC, and we have different types and streams of position that vary from one field to another.”

These positions include managing a departmental network, system operations and maintenance, and providing help desk services.

“Some of our challenges with attracting and retaining IT talent is that educational institutions have noticed an enrolment decrease in the IT field, specifically in computer programming and computer science,” says Lorenzato.

“That’s one of our concerns because if we’re not attracting graduates as we should, the industry and the government will be competing for very scarce resources, so we are concerned that we may not have enough specialists for all of the jobs that will be available.”

The ITSB is going to participate in the PWGSC career fair during Canada Career Week, Lorenzato adds.

Tighe says that with respect to government requirements, the highest demand areas in IT are for project managers, business analysts, and people with strong business acumen, but with a technology bent.

“That’s probably the primary demand at one end of the spectrum, then at the other end, the government still operates most of its applications running on large mainframe systems. So we’re still seeing a demand for programmers, developers, systems analysts, and systems programmers, because we’re just not producing that talent anymore as a society,” says Tighe.

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