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Is the Biden administration’s next US Digital Corps program ageist?




A GSA press release last week featuring the US Digital Corps program revealed ageist stereotypes … [+] and the alleged course of action.


When Joe Biden officially announced his run for president in early 2019, daily media headlines claimed that Biden, then 76, was too old for the job. Since he was 78, President Biden has fought effectively against bipartisan agendas, pandemic recovery and racial tensions. Why, then, propose and promote a program plagued by ageism, raising serious issues of prejudice and discrimination against older workers?

Last week, the GSA press release, the Biden administration launches the US Digital Corps to recruit the next generation of tech talent from the Federal Reserve, focused on the early career workers who make up the next generation of public servants and how current employees are accelerating towards retirement.

If that weren’t blatant enough, the press release concluded by referring to the creation of a “highly skilled American digital body that represents the diversity of the United States, including in terms of gender, race and ethnicity. ethnicity.

Where’s the age?

If our government neglects this protected category, how can we expect other hiring authorities to pay attention?

Why the inclusive age strategy is the key

In February 2020, a FedWeek article cited budget documents indicating that the average age of the federal workforce is older than the country’s broader labor force46 versus 41. About 28.8% (604,000) of federal employees are over 55. At the other end of the spectrum, only 7.3% (154,000) are under 30, compared to 23% of private sector workers.

Among IT professionals, FedWeek reports that employees aged 60 and over have almost doubled since 2007 to 14.2%, while those under 30 have fallen from 4.1 to 2.7%. And, that of all federal employees, only 15% are eligible for retirement.

But that doesn’t mean they are retiring.

Pew Research reports that 29% of people aged 65 to 72 were working or looking for work before the pandemic. After COVID, displaced older workers find it difficult (and in some cases impossible) to find employment, even when they are ready to change careers, indicating that age bias is already widespread.

In another study of 400 workers between 40 and 65, 67% plan to continue working after 66.

What the US government employment data reflects is demographic age change, a projection that the Census Bureau says will continue in each decade through 2060. For the entire period 2020-60, the older age group is expected to increase by 53% compared to just 13% in the younger group.

Age demographics illustrate the organizational urgency to attract, develop and retain diverse and multigenerational talent. Therefore, it is not in the interest of governments to create a program that focuses only on the younger generation to the exclusion of others.

Here is where the launch of the US Digital Corps program failed.

Assumptions and stereotypes

What is the basis for the GSA’s claim that today’s workers are accelerating towards retirement? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of workers aged 65 or older has increased 117% in 20 years, while employment of people aged 75 or older has also increased 117%.

If the US Digital Corps program is to ensure that the government has digitally skilled employees, it must stop assuming that retirement eligibility means retirement. In addition, they must ensure that their recruitment efforts and program communications are age sensitive. Doing it is not only the right thing to do, it also prevents the GSA from violating its basic charter not to discriminate on the basis of age.

In his analysis of BLS data, William R. Emmons, assistant vice president and economics at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, says employment of older workers will continue to rise. Not only because of changing demographics, but also because people are living and working longer. By comparison, employment for the younger population will be lower due to lower birth rates.

Second, what is the assumption that older workers are not interested in a change of professional field or in technology? In fact, it’s not uncommon for tech boot camps to enroll learners between the ages of 15 and 75.

Young career start!

The US Digital Corps should encourage applicants of all ages, whether this is their first job or their 10th. Inclusion of age should be reinforced in all communications, including images on the program website. And, we should see the proof in the representation of new hires, once the program opens.

Language and inconsistencies

In response to questions related to the GSA press release, Christina Wilkes, press secretary for the Office of Strategic Communications, provided the following response from an anonymous GSA spokesperson. The Digital Corps opportunity is open to all technologists of any age interested in the position and qualified to do the job.

Yet, according to the press release, GSA administrator Robin Carnahan says one of her top priorities is to recruit the next generation of public servants, which reflects a clear trend in age.

There is no doubt that the language is targeting a younger age cohort, says Ashton Applewhite, age activist and author. It is misleading at best and most likely illegal.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made it very clear: Jobs conveying the preferences of recent, young and energetic graduates are recruitment practices that may indicate discrimination. systemic age-based.

When asked why, after focusing on early career and the next generation, age was omitted from the reference to what the Digital Corps looks for when creating a diverse program, the spokesperson said that GSA (which hosts the Digital Corps) is an equal opportunity employer. .

Our goal is to recruit a diverse pool of candidates across all identity and experience markers.

If so, why not emphasize this point instead?

The good news

The good thing is that government officials have been made aware of the ageist orientation and hopefully will take appropriate action.

And, since the GSA predicts that most people interested in the US Digital Corps will have minimal tech work experience, anyone interested in a new career in tech, regardless of age, might consider applying.

Applications for the first cohort of US Digital Corps fellows are expected to open this fall.

Now if only the US government would immediately suspend the use of the term elderly when it refers to 65 and over.




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