State Legislatures' Aging Staffs Spur College Recruitment Campaign

College students, beware! The National Conference of State Legislatures is coming for you.

With a recent survey showing that very few state legislative staff leaders are under the age of 45, NCSL has launched a campaign to interest college students and recent grads in taking jobs with state legislative staffs. As part of that campaign, which emphasizes public service and being a part of "history," NCSL launched a website this week aimed at recruitment.

"A recent NCSL survey shows that we have a disproportionate number of legislative staff that are 50 years and older and those people will be cycling out of the workforce and into retirement in the coming decade," says Mike Sunseri, head photographer for the Kentucky Legislature and project manager for the website. "There will be job openings in state legislatures."

Baby boomers represent about one-third of the national workforce, but on state legislative staffs, they represent 50 percent of personnel, according to the NCSL survey. More than half of the survey's respondents stated that they expect to retire in 10 years or fewer. With the current state of the economy and with college students still struggling to find work, the NCSL's new public relations push could open a whole new avenue for recent graduates.

According to Nancy Cyr, director of the Nebraska Legislative Research Office, "The goals of the website are to highlight the variety of professional opportunities available in state legislatures throughout the country."

The NCSL lays out 10 "Career Paths" that prospective applicants could pursue to have an impact on government and engage in public service. Many of the posts are for bipartisan legislative staff openings in the lawmaking bodies.

The new website lists a plethora of skill sets that any state legislative staff would welcome, including: comprehension of fiscal issues, cost benefit analyses of new policies and programs, communications, writing and photography, and leadership.

The NCSL is attempting to get college students interested by contacting school internship programs across the U.S. The campaign comes as NCSL continues outreach to young legislators and legislative staff across the country. This includes education tracks at NCSL conferences geared towards younger attendees and specialized networking events for that age range.

"There is this unintentional secret world of great career opportunities that people just aren't aware of because the very essence of being a legislative staffer is to be behind the scenes," said Sunseri about their internship program. "Interns often come into this environment out of college. We will be reaching out to college career placement personnel and using this as a recruiting tool for internship programs that are already in existence. This is really trying to get beyond that normal core group to help educate people about the different dynamic opportunities there are within the state legislature."

Clarification: This article has been edited to indicate Michael Sunseri's role in the creation of the website.