In September 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) sought the assistance of the National Academy to help it develop effective national strategies for attracting and retaining a diverse high-performing workforce for its mission-critical occupations. Ensuring a vibrant workforce pipeline for VA’s mission-critical positions is at the center of VA’s human capital challenges. The pipeline is becoming more stressed particularly in the health care field as the demand for these positions outpaces supply at an accelerating rate. VA’s pipeline challenges are driven by the slowing growth of the labor force; the aging veteran population, which is increasing the demand for healthcare workers; and the decline in educational performance and participation of U.S. students in science and math. Science and math education is essential to VA’s health care and research occupations.
VA has an opportunity to move beyond the extensive work it has done in analyzing and documenting workforce diversity. The data from this study also allow VA to predict when, where and what its diversity shortfalls will occur. Although that important work must continue, more attention should be directed at finding out what is causing any identified statistical disparities and determining whether corrective action or more effective outreach is needed. This is especially important for women, Hispanics and Asians, who are expected to be a much larger part of the workforce in the future. Enhancing VA’s outreach to these communities will be increasingly important in meeting future recruitment challenges.