The federal workforce is filled with many employees approaching or at retirement age, and agencies are faced with having to bring in new staff if they’re going to continue working towards accomplishing their mission.

This has been a real struggle for many government agencies. The old misconceptions of “public service” often tarnish government employment in the eyes of recent graduates and qualified potential employees. Government work often gets overlooked since it can incorrectly be labeled as stodgy, low paying, unfulfilling and behind the times.

In an effort to battle these negative stereotypes, the Department of Energy (DOE) has implemented a new program designed to appeal to college students about to enter the workforce. According to an article in Federal News, the DOE implemented a student ambassador program in 2009 that places students from colleges and universities into jobs at DOE offices and asks them to promote the agency and its job openings on campus.

The results from the DOE’s program have been pretty impressive. The first year of the program, which featured six student ambassadors, led to relationships with 71 faculty members that could be mined for future ambassadors and employees. The following year, eight ambassadors were used. According to the article, these ambassadors established a network of 1,718 students and faculty, promoted 24 jobs, held 50 promotional and informational events and generated over 10,000 application visits from the Web links they provided.

But despite all of this positive feedback and success, there is one huge catch. Each DOE student ambassador costs the agency approximately $5,000 ($3,000 stipend and $2,000 marketing budget). That’s a lot of money for a student ambassador that is going to talk up an agency’s benefits and work to recruit new employees for a year or so before they graduate. And there’s no evidence that these student ambassadors will have significantly impacted the view of the federal government as a viable employer on their campus in the years following their departure.

But what if there was a more economical and effective way to improve the perception of federal agencies, increase recruiting and simultaneously improve the way an agency does business and communicates? Well, Unified Communications (UC) technologies could do just that.

UC technologies, such as video teleconferencing (VTC) and data sharing, can increase collaboration and communication among distributed teleworking employees and remove the existing barriers keeping agencies from adopting telework on a larger scale. By enabling an increase in telework, agencies would significantly increase work-life balance, drastically cut commute times and shake off the “stodgy and antiquated” label sometimes attached to government employment.

In addition, the ability to enable individuals to have video communication regardless of the distance separating them effectively removes a significant geographic barrier that impacts recruiting. Instead of only targeting upcoming graduates from local colleges and universities, agencies could hire recent graduates from across the country and enable them to telework. The end result is a much larger pool of qualified applicants to choose from. Also, employment with an agency would be more enticing for these graduates since there would be no need to relocate for their job.

Instead of college ambassadors that cost $5,000 each for a year or so of service, UC solutions could drastically improve recruitment by positively impacting the perception of government employment and removing geographic barriers from recruitment efforts. But the benefits wouldn’t end there. UC solutions can help agencies operate more effectively and efficiently, overall. They can save agencies money in recurring costs such as business travel, office space and utilities. They can also increase collaboration between distributed workforces.

Although the college ambassador program is a great example of outside of the box thinking in the federal government, new technologies are available that could have a more permanent and inexpensive impact on recruiting. In today’s current budget environment, can an agency afford to not embrace UC solutions?