Results of a study of Kent County's workforce could lead to the end of in-house job advancements.

    A recent diversity study has given the county a few suggestions on how to attract more minority employees and diversify its workforce.

    Funded with $12,000 from the 2008 budget, commissioners agreed to the study after some discussion last summer about whether it was needed. Protecting the county against a potential lawsuit was one reason mentioned as a reason supporting the project.

    A series of recommendations were given by the University of Delaware study to improve the county’s workforce diversity, said Personnel Director Allan Kujala. For the most part these included general suggestions requesting commitment by commissioners and aligning county policies to achieve the intended goal, but did offer some concrete solutions that Kujala said the county would utilize.

     In addition to reaching out to the immediate community for minority recruitment, hosting a career fair and developing an internship program for high school students, a suggestion to eliminate in-house job openings is being considered, Kujala said.

    “The thought is to open positions to the public to get a more diverse pool,” he said.

    As it currently stands, when positions open up, county employees are given first opportunity to fill them. What tends to happen is a chain reaction of people succeeding to higher positions, leaving their former jobs open, with people further down the line in turn filling those jobs.

    And since the county workforce is not now particularly diverse, Kujala said higher positions that could be attractive to minority applicants are filled by an in-house pool of non-diverse workers, hence perpetuating the homogenous workforce.

    Kujala said while some county employees may complain that in-house advancement is a perk they don’t want to lose, he thinks healthy competition could ensure the best person is hired for the position.

    “Quite frankly I see it as best for all parties,” he said.

    Opening job vacancies to outside applicants will require an amendment to the personnel ordinance, something Kujala’s staff is working on.

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