Delaware has launched a $225,000 campaign to advertise the many state jobs available, and to make sure job seekers know the state has raised salaries and offers alternative schedules.
The campaign is a unique move for the state, pointed out Claire DeMatteis, secretary of the Delaware Department of Human Resources.
It’s aimed at catching the attention of Delaware workers as well as workers in nearby states and getting them to explore state jobs and apply, she said.
“The state government in the past really hasn’t promoted itself and tooted its own horn and said, look, we have great opportunities for people with great benefits, competitive salaries, and flexible work schedules,” DeMatteis said. “Part of this is truly getting the word out like private sector jobs do on social media, on billboards, on buses and really tell the great nature of state jobs.”
The state jobs campaign will run through October and include radio, social media, outdoor, transit, and digital advertising.
Like other large employers, state offices are having trouble filling jobs, said DeMatteis, who took over Human Resources in January after serving as commissioner of the Department of Correction and overseeing COVID funds in Carney’s office.
There is an imbalance between the technical skills required and the positions available, while generational changes regarding work-life balance no longer want the once proverbial 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office jobs.
Many of the workers the state is seeking often look for work in the private sector or other government agencies: nurses, employment services specialists, unemployment insurance claims processors and field agents, vocational rehabilitation counselors, disability determination adjudicators, and law enforcement officers.
State jobs competitors
It’s tough across the board to hire nurses or people interested in law enforcement, DeMatteis said.
But some of the state’s empty positions require no special training, such as corporation specialists. Those workers deal with the many corporations that are headquartered in Delaware and the specialists are trained on the job, said DeMatteis.
“As you know, in a state like Delaware, our corporation services are one of the most important things we do for business,” she said. “That’s an area where we’ll train people with a high school diploma. You can come in, get the training — we pay for it — and you get a really good salary with great benefits.”
The jobs also are not politically oriented and won’t change with administrations, DeMatteis said.
Flexible work hours
The advertisements are a small part of the state’s multi-pronged approach to recruiting workers to fill its current 400 openings, said DeMatteis.
In April, her office announced a new policy that included alternative work arrangements with flexible work hours for state jobs.
Many state workers were among those who needed to work from home during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they liked it, DeMatteis said.
In addition, many younger workers like alternate schedules, such as four-day work weeks, which the state now offers for some jobs.
DeMatteis pointed out one, called the window schedule, that allows someone to work from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., leave for a few hours, and then work from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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It’s generally accepted that state jobs pay less for the trade-off of great healthcare and great retiree benefits.
DeMatteis said that legislation passed this year by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. John Carney created a 6% salary bump for every state employee.
And, she pointed out, “Nobody can match the state’s health care benefits and retiree benefits.”
Delaware also has started paying signing bonuses for the high-demand, hard-to-fill jobs, DeMatteis said.
Those who accept new jobs will get a $5,000 signing bonus.
Half is paid when the worker starts the job. The other half is paid after the worker has been on the job for two years, she said.
Delaware also is paying $3,000 recruitment bonuses to employees who refer a friend, colleague, neighbor or family for a job, if that person accepts a position.
The current employee gets $1,500 when the new employee begins work. The other $1,500 is paid when the new employee has two years on the job, DeMatteis said.
Working with high schools
The Department of Human Resources plans to continue working through the Delaware Career Pathways program in state high schools to prepare students to work in state jobs, such as a corporation specialists.
Those programs allow high school students to take classes related to fields they are interested in and even work or shadow workers in those jobs, must as vocational schools place students in tracks for culinary or automotive work.
No-shows for interviews
The state’s hiring problems reflect what is going on in the private sector, including having a huge number of potential hires sign up for interviews, only to have many never show up, she said.
Large employers have been complaining that the state should require anyone on unemployment to not only prove they have sought a job but actually show up for the interview. They are not required to show up, employers say.
DeMatteis thought showing up was a requirement, and said she would ask Karryl Hubbard, secretary of the Department of Labor, about it.
“If that’s true…that’s a loophole we need to shore up,” she said. “It would make no sense that it’s just an appointment…That provision needs some tweaks.”
Efforts to reach Hubbard or a Department of Labor spokesman were not immediately successful Thursday.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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