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Three Clarion County CYS Caseworkers Hired; Hiring Logjam Broken with New Civil Service Procedures

Friday, March 15, 2019 @ 07:03 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

fullsizeoutput_6453CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Clarion County requires all of its caseworkers to be hired through Civil Service testing and for years it was extremely difficult to hire anyone because the official lists did not have many people that took the tests and selected Clarion County. Earlier this week at the meeting of Clarion County Commissioners that problem started to improve. 

(PHOTO: Sandy Ion, Clarion County director of central accounting, shows Tim Cochran, director of employee relations, the percentage of state money that funds CYS caseworkers.)

Clarion County received state approval to fill three “Caseworker One” positions using emergency standards that allowed hiring three qualified individuals on the provision that the “Civil Service” tests are taken online and passed within 30 days of their start dates.

Tim Cochran, director of employee relations, said that in the past the tests were only given in major cities such as Pittsburgh or Erie and didn’t attract too many applicants, especially those that would be willing to work in a rural area. Now candidates can take the Civil Service test online in their own home.

The new procedure allowed the hiring of Saber Brown of Brookville (effective March 21),  Jamie Davis of Parker (March 11), and Stacy Winger of Franklin (effective March 25). The three CYS Caseworkers will receive an annual salary of $28,267.20 for 40 hours per week. Clarion County also provides family insurance.

“It’s definitely geared to us rural people,” said Cochran.  “The system changes beyond this emergency period. Our HR representative for Clarion County Civil service is Kelly Tobias and she has been excellent working with the county.”

“Caseworkers are harder to place across the county and part of that was the necessity to a location to take a test. Basically, you would have to take a day off of work or school or whatever to go to these locations to take a test with no guarantee of getting a job. The new scenario is more convenient and probably less stressful for the applicant. You and now do it basically from home and take the test at home.  It’s partially a test but it’s also a review of your experience and training.”

Cochran said he thinks county salaries and an excellent benefits package will also help recruit people.

Salaries Competitive

“Our salaries are competitive and we negotiated that with United Mine Workers, the CYS union,” continued Cochran. “Caseworkers one, two, and three are all bargaining unit members. We also took them to 40 hours a week from 35 for a traditional work week. When you add the benefits package I think it’s a nice deal. It’s a good job and a good career.  Civil Service is based on being a career employee – a start off as a one to a two to a three to a supervisor to a specialist and eventually, a deputy.  That ladder is right there for you to climb.  We’ve made great strides in CYS with the leadership and caseworkers are all committed to the job.”

The majority of funding for CYS caseworkers comes from the state but the county share can run between 10 to 40 percent, according to Sandy Ion, director of central accounting.

Employees can also take advantage of family insurance, paying 12.5 percent of the premium. CYS employees received the same benefits as any other Clarion County employee. Clarion County also offers a stipend for younger employees who can be on their parents’ policy until they are 26 years old.

Cochran explained the mechanics behind the new arrangements for hiring Civil Service employees.

“The new service for Civil Service is contracted through Neogov and they administer it for Civil Service and Children and Youth candidates,” said Cochran. “We created a requisition to advertise for Caseworker One and Two and we let it run for three weeks and had a closing date. At the end of that, we had one applicant. That applicant who lives near Youngstown also applied for a job in Mercer County and she took that job.”

“We were left with zero candidates and we had nobody to hire and nowhere to go.  We had two options; we could either do it externally or we could go into what Civil Service calls an emergency hire. We then just went on Indeed, posted the job and the experience that it needed, and they submitted their resumes. Basically, you have to have a four-year bachelor’s degree to be a caseworker.  We reached out to six people who appeared to meet the qualifications. They gave us their transcripts and we sent the transcripts down to Kelly at Civil Service and she reviewed their course load to make sure they had the right courses in that field. We called six people and we hired three who, of course, had to give notice to their current employers.  Once they come on board, they have 30 days to complete the training and experience portion of the online credentials and that will obviously be the first thing they do. Two of the three have already done it and they’re waiting for the test to come back.”

In addition to the test, there is also a review of credentials by Civil Service. Credentials and experience demonstrate if a candidate has the needed background for a particular field.

Clarion County contracted with Justice Works as a possible way of avoiding the delays and lack of candidates through Civil Service, but Cochran said Justice Works was experiencing the same problem. Justice Works has the ability to tinker with salaries by offering slightly higher salaries and reducing benefits.

“We’ll use them as needed, but hopefully we won’t have to rely on them as heavily because we’re going to be in a constant hiring mode. My posting is out there to hire Caseworker Ones and once approved you can go online and apply for that.  The issue is you’re not notified if you are a candidate until after the closing date. Every two weeks we’ll have a closing date for Children and Youth. We’ll just use that schedule until we get up to full complement.”

Clarion County and Cochran are also looking to Clarion University as a pipeline for new caseworkers.

“We’ve started partnering with Clarion University and I feel that’s going to be our biggest feeder system,” continued Cochran.  “We have kids graduating every December and May with a degree.  We’re working with them now to enhance and maybe even expand our intern program.  We have interns who are unpaid but they get course credit, but with the new system I think it’s 60 days before they graduate they can take the test and if they pass it we can hire them based on completion of their course load and verification of credentials.  If you graduate on a Saturday, you could start work next week.”

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