Problem Identification:
The City is unable to attract and retain qualified engineers. The recent Retirement Incentive Opportunity (RIO) resulted in the loss of many key experienced personnel. The majority of the vacated position were abolished. The City’s engineering-related employment lists often contain only a few minimally trained candidates, symptomatic of the reality that engineering professionals are in great demand. The City’s entry level engineering personnel typically remain in the Civil Service system for a short time to gain work experience before moving on to higher paying opportunities outside of City government.

Recommended Action:
Develop strategies to address the City’s critical need for engineers including expanding the City’s capacity to preexamine project change orders, create an Environmental Engineer III position classification to accelerate the environmental/historical review and approval processes for federal-aid projects, and expand the City’s engineering internship program with local colleges and universities.

Organizational, Service Improvement

Functional/Operational Area:
All Departmental Operations with Engineering-related Activity

Estimated Annual Impact:
While the immediate financial impact cannot be estimated, addressing the City’s shortage of qualified engineering personnel could produce dramatic effects in reducing the backlog of projects that cannot be completed in a timely fashion by accelerating the design and execution of capital construction projects, and reducing the number and cost of change orders.

Estimated Implementation Costs:
Not Determined

Barriers to Implementation:
Private sector demand for engineering employment candidates and comparatively low City compensation packages. Additionally, the City’s utilization of hiring freezes limits the infusion of additional engineers.

Projected Implementation:

Next Steps:
Convene a small working group with representation from DPW and the Personnel Department. Examine the success of current recruitment efforts, evaluate job classifications and salary ranges, and make adjustments to current practices as necessary.

A continually resurfacing observation during the course of the project team’s fieldwork related to DPW’s critical need for engineers. Some of the specific areas mentioned include:

– Preparing construction estimates and specifications;
– Preparation and processing of environmental documentation associated with federal aid projects;
– Coordinating utility work.

While addressing these needs would almost invariably involve some staffing costs, these staffing costs might help the City realize significant improvements in areas such as reducing the time required for design and execution of capital projects and minimizing the number and amount of change orders.

Select interim solutions to this Department-wide problem include:

– Establishing a cooperative engineering internship program for local high school students to attract entry-level para-professional workers interested in the engineering field and/or career opportunities with the City;
– Establishing new position classifications (e.g. -Engineering Associate III and Engineering Supervisor) to provide promotional opportunities for para-professional engineering personnel to be promoted (currently, Engineering Associate II or Transportation Associate II are the highest positions attainable for personnel in either of the before-mentioned classifications);
– Expanding engineering internship programs with local colleges and universities and hiring program participants into the City’s Engineer II position as opposed to Engineer I position as an incentive for remaining with the City;
– Supplementing the existing workforce with contract engineers; and
– Reviewing and adjusting salary rates within engineering-related classifications to increase the City’s competitiveness with the private sector.

This recommendation relates to an area of DPW’s operations that requires further study (see Recommendation 1-B).