By Ben Margiott, News 4 & Fox 11, October 4, 2023
Despite significant raises for state workers approved this year, nearly 1 in 4 state jobs remain vacant, prompting Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo to issue an executive order suspending minimum qualifications for some positions.
The order, signed Sept. 18 and effective immediately, suspends minimum qualifications for some jobs for 90 days, after which the state will review whether that needs to be extended.
It comes after the state legislature earlier this year approved annual cost-of-living salary increases of 12% and 11% for the next two years.
Still, the vacancy rate as of Sept. 18 was 24.3%, the same vacancy rate when Gov. Lombardo delivered his first State of the State address this January.
It is definitely unusual. It’s unprecedented.
Jack Robb, the director of the Nevada Department of Administration, told News 4-Fox 11 that the minimum qualifications were often excluding otherwise qualified applicants.
“What we often find is minimum qualifications – say how long somebody had to have done a job in the past – by suspending those minimum qualifications, what we often find is there are individuals that have the skill set to do the job. They just don’t have the years of service behind them,” Robb said.
Robb said the order will not result in unqualified people getting hired, rather it will expand the pool of qualified applicants by allowing people who have relevant experience to at least be considered, even if their experience doesn’t meet a minimum number of years.
He said despite the salary increases and bonus approved this year, it’s still difficult to keep up with the private sector, especially for agencies like NDOT.
According to NDOT spokeswoman Meg Ragonese, that agency’s vacancy rate is currently 20%, but vacancy rates differ depending on the location. For example, in the urban Truckee Meadows, 37% of highway maintenance positions are vacant.
Another state agency struggling with vacancies is the Nevada DMV. Though the DMV’s vacancy rate is only 11%, spokesman Eli Rohl said most of the vacant positions are jobs that work with customers daily.
“Our call center is about half staffed right now. Many of our field offices have vacancies and that directly impacts the number of customers we can see,” Rohl said.
The shortage has prompted an unprecedented backlog of appointments and pushed them toward creative solutions, such as allowing people to take the written driving test online.