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Former UNC System President Tom Ross on getting young people into government careers

Worth you time today: a piece from this week’s The Edge newsletter, from the Chronicle of Higher Education, about former UNC System President Tom Ross’ role in trying to get young people interested in government work again.

The problem: American young people are no longer attracted to government work, from the federal and state to the local level. At the state level, job postings have increased 11 percent but applicants have fallen 25 percent.

From the piece:

A new effort by the Volcker Alliance is trying to shift that mind-set — and it’s looking to higher education as a key partner.

The organization, which is based in New York, has created a new project called the Government-to-University Initiative, and is building regional councils of local governments and colleges around the country to carry out the work. These G2U councils will develop strategies to pinpoint and publicize the career opportunities and skills needed by local, state, and federal governments in their region, encourage local colleges to prepare students for these careers and then assist the colleges in actually helping students land some of those jobs.

The alliance’s tie-in with universities makes sense considering that the president of the six-year-old organization is Tom Ross, the former president of the University of North Carolina system. The alliance is all about making government effective, and as Ross described it to me recently, the goal of G2U is “to enhance the pipeline into public service.”

Ross, like the namesake founder of the alliance, Paul A. Volcker, comes to this project following a long career in civic life. He was a judge before his stint as system president. And as we were talking about G2U, it became clear that he’s hoping the project might awaken a similar calling in today’s young people — and even the not-so-young.

“The words of John Kennedy rang in our ears,” he said of his generation. Today’s millennials and Gen Zers are also civic minded, and they’re worried about society too, he said. “We want them to see that being part of government is a way to fix it.”

Read the whole piece — including Ross addressing the way the current political atmosphere in Washington may be turning young people away from public service — here.

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