ATLANTA — The state of Georgia is hanging out “help wanted” signs for the first time in years, thanks to improving tax collections, reforms that freed up money, and a crisis or two that forced leaders’ hands.
The Department of Corrections is hiring prison guards. The Department of Juvenile Justice needs corrections officers and the Department of Family and Children Services is adding 175 child-welfare caseworkers.
At Juvenile Justice, the agency has suffered 57 percent turnover in staff as a result of low pay, poor supervision and a lack of promotion criteria, according to a recent audit. DFACS has been the focus of criticism after reports of children dying in its care showed it was understaffed. Corrections has been hit by a spike in inmate deaths and violence.
Gov. Nathan Deal convinced the General Assembly to budget money for more caseworkers and pay raises for the juvenile and adult jailers. Since the state fiscal year starts July 1, the agencies are increasing their hiring. Finding enough qualified workers isn’t easy, according to private-sector recruiters.
“One of the issues the state has is they have been in a hiring freeze and no pay raises for years. That word gets out,” said Randall W. Hatcher, the president of MAU Workforce Solutions in Augusta.
The number of applicants for that many openings can be daunting to a personnel department, according to Preston Sizemore, the CEO of Sizemore Inc., an Augusta-based placement firm. As many as 100 applications might need to be screened for every three jobs.
And the agencies understand that the jobs aren’t suited for everyone.
“It takes a special person to want to work in corrections,” Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens said.
His outfit likes to recruit military veterans because of the similarities in mission and organization. It is holding job fairs at military installations, including Fort Gordon on June 26 where officials will hire on the spot.
Juvenile Justice has a job fair the same day at Fort Gordon and the next day for the public in Augusta. It has a pre-employment exam and personality profile that already has improved the turnover rate by 15 percent, according to department spokesman Jim Shuler.
DFACS wants new caseworkers with some experience and a degree in social work, notes spokeswoman Susan Boatwright.
Job seekers can apply online at www.dhsjobs.org.