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Students Help DoD Fill Jobs Through Marketing, Recruiting

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2008 – Web-based social-networking and video-sharing sites such as “MySpace” and “YouTube” may be the best place to turn to entice the nation’s best and brightest young people to work for the Defense Department.

That is among the conclusions of college business students who entered a contest to help the department increase its applicant pool for critical civilian jobs that require foreign-language abilities. The students, undergraduates at three U.S.-based colleges and universities, were recognized at a Pentagon ceremony today for their recruiting and marketing plans.

“Sometimes we get down on young people,” Patricia Bradshaw, DoD’s deputy undersecretary for civilian personnel policy, told the students. “But my faith is restored when I meet with people like you. Thank you for all that you do and for being a future leader of this nation. I’m looking forward to getting resumes!”

The department will not implement all of the recommendations, but will use the best analysis, strategies and practical suggestions, Bradshaw said. “They have given us tremendous insights and ‘a-ha moments,’” she said of the plans. “This has given us tremendous faith in the education that is out there and in the generation behind us.”

The ceremony today concluded five months of work for the college undergraduate teams who entered the first-ever competition, sponsored by the Civilian Personnel Management Service and its contractor, EdVenture Partners. The students were charged in January with developing a comprehensive recruiting and marketing plan to identify U.S. citizens with foreign-language skills who qualify to fill the department’s mission-critical skills in areas such as medical, engineering, science, transportation, acquisitions, finance and security. Targeted languages include Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Korean, Russian and Farsi.

“I am so proud of this group,” said University of Illinois-Chicago Marketing Professor Dave Koehler, whose team won first place for its “D-Day” plan for the Defense Department. “They have so much energy, and they worked so hard. They will remember this day for the rest of their lives.”

Koehler’s all-female team, three of five of whom are multilingual, posted an advertising excerpt of its plan on www.youtube.com. Amid video of sensational celebrity sightings, animal antics and extreme occurrences, comes a black screen and an announcer’s solemn voice: “D-Day is coming. Your life changes here.” Then, with only the department’s blue and gold seal on the screen, the deep, male voice challenges, “Do you think you have what it takes?” Interested viewers are then directed to the department’s recruiting site at www.godefense.com. Five resumes were posted almost immediately, Koehler said.

Marketing DoD has its challenges, said UIC team leader and marketing student Svetlana Shiper. “There are misperceptions about the department, mostly tied to the war,” she said. “A lot of people are really negative about the war, and we wanted to let them know that they will be civilians and that the DoD is much greater than just this war.”

As the YouTube commercial notes, there are about 700,000 Defense Department jobs in more than 2,000 defense agencies. Of those jobs, the department fills about 80,000 per year, Bradshaw said.

Shiper said many young people jump at the chance to work for the department. “People are interested in the prestige of working for the Defense Department, and they’re really interested in making a difference,” she said.

Other winners in the contest are University of Colorado-Colorado Springs in second place and Cascade College, based in Portland, Ore., in third place.

Another idea Bradshaw said the department is interested in is Cascade’s suggestion to use alternate-reality gaming, or ARG, to attract young people. ARG is an Internet-based, interactive narrative that uses multimedia and gaming in a real-world platform to tell a story -- in this case, the “story” of being a Defense civilian.

Cascade’s student team leader, John “Wes” Scott, said the department also has to appeal to young people’s desire for non-traditional work arrangements. “Our generation is looking for job freedom and flexibility,” he said. “We can go on the Internet and see the whole world before us. We’re not looking so much for a career as for opportunities.”

That doesn’t mean young people are opposed to becoming civil servants, Scott said. To the contrary, “DoD has so many options and regional assignments. I would work for an employer for 30 years if I could move around and grow. Nobody wants to work in a cubicle doing the same job forever.”

The department has many qualities that make it an easy sell, Koehler said. “Right now, our graduates really just want a job. DoD salaries are competitive. You have career tracks. You don’t find that in the private sector. And our team [of all women] was really excited to see so many women here in high positions,” he said of the Pentagon.

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