Talent acquisition professionals across all industries, but specifically national security, are continuing to battle to fill open billets. The difficulties are because of the competition for candidates seeking remote roles with the small pool of cleared candidates we’re seeing.

Targeting the Younger Generation

Many large defense contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, center their recruiting efforts targeting school-aged children hoping to get them interested in careers in science, technical, engineering, cybersecurity, etc. down the road.

This tactic may not serve their near-term recruiting efforts, but ultimately supports the defense sector future candidate pool in the long term.

Another organization, Altamira Technologies Corporation, does similar talent acquisition strategy by reaching high school students. Caroline McConnell, SVP and Chief Human Capital Officer notes their strategies:

Altamira utilizes junior talent to create a cycle of summer cohort internships, co-ops and program-specific internships which are mutually advantageous to both student and employer.  Altamira seeks out primarily top R&D analysis, data science and software engineering students to work on direct-bill research programs with the United States Air Force, being mentored on technology-specific projects which enhances the student’s learning and education, while helping Altamira meet customer needs. Altamira has a relationship with several universities nationwide related to these specific curriculums, and students go through interviews and screening panels to fit the needs, locations and culture of the teams.

During the program the students have access to PhDs and other technical talent within the organization (including prior interns), the executive team, and in some cases the customer, to gain knowledge and be mentored.  There are also formal training sessions we call “Learning Lecture Series”, engagement events to network with the company, and fun events just for the cohort, plus the company picnic.  Prior to starting, these students complete paperwork to be submitted for a clearance, with the goal to at least obtain Interim Secret by their first day.  By the end of the summer, most have obtained Top Secret and some get even to SCI.  Each student must complete a presentation at the end of the summer on a topic related to their work, which is viewed by the senior leadership and technical principals within the organization, which develops their public speaking skills.  An assessment is done on each student at the end of the summer to determine what gaps or skills needs have not yet been able to be worked or perhaps demonstrated, and an overall rating to determine continued interest in that student.  Some students return the following summer, some become part-time co-ops through the rest of their school year, and almost all are hired to come to Altamira full-time after their graduation – whether Spring or Fall semester.  Additionally, students complete a survey of their experience which is used to develop an even better program for the following summer.  This program has been highly successful at growing our own technical talent.

If You Build It, They Will COme

Even in the shorter term, targeting potential clearable college or university students can help fill the candidate gap. Even though they are younger or greener to the field, experts say that early career talent are trainable and ready to learn, even though they may not have the long background of work experience.

Focusing your recruitment efforts on building your employer brand to the next generation of talent will be better streamlined if you build an apprenticeships structured program or start to employ interns. If you are having trouble gaining buy-in from leadership because these individuals will not be working on a billable program, try convincing them that you can start the clearance process while they are serving your administrative processes as an intern.

Entry level career programs in this tight labor market should motivate organizations to think outside the box in their recruiting efforts, and recruiting the potentially clearable workforce is another way for companies to fill positions in the longrun.



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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸