See how Port Arthur is restructuring job requirements to fill open positions

Published 12:24 am Saturday, May 14, 2022

The City of Port Arthur is working to restructure employment requirements in an effort to fill 49 vacant positions.

The number is an increase from 42 in January.

“High demand and short supply for skilled workers in the workplace means that filling departmental vacancies will be a challenge,” said Trameka Williams, director of human resources, during a recent council meeting. “The departments within the City of Port Arthur take filling vacant positions at a steady pace. When new job vacancies arise, we often face challenges with filling the positions, depending on the positions, skill level and experience.”

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Williams said job descriptions have been sent to department heads to be revamped to make it easier to employ those that apply.

“A lot of times we get applications from an individual and they don’t meet the minimum qualifications for the job,” she said. “We have, right now, an assistant library director position open, but people apply and they don’t have the (Master of Library Science Degree) and that’s mandatory for the job.”

The current vacancies are: three in parks and recreation, 17 in public works, 15 in utility operations, and 14 in other departments such as police, non-civil service, IT, and finance.

“We know it’s going to get hot May, June, July,” said Councilman Thomas Kinlaw. “And that’s when we do the majority of cutting grass. Parks and recreation — I don’t think we should ever have a vacancy there.”

Public works, he added, was another that should not have a high number of vacancies.

Needing a commercial driver’s license can often be the challenge in those departments, City Manager Ron Burton said, but job descriptions are being evaluated to see if a CDL requirement can be removed from some.

In addition, he said, the city works with Port Arthur residents to help them obtain a CDL if that is the only requirement they’re lacking.

But he also mentioned additional factors that contribute to unemployment.

“My son applied for a job and didn’t get it,” Burton said. “I asked the HR department to look up an individual. He didn’t complete the application. He never hit ‘submit.’”

Williams said some open positions are not currently posted online because they are first posted internally to give employees an opportunity to apply before the general public. After seven days, the position is posted on the city’s website.

Mayor Pro Tem Donald Frank said ensuring employees get an increase in salary is imperative.

“I was aware of someone who had worked in our city for several years… I mean, almost 25, 30 years or so, and had never reached $50,000 in salary,” he said. “We can’t do that and expect that people are going to want to work in our city and want to stay.”

Burton said a firm recently completed a study on middle management, salaries and compensation; and that 99 percent of the time an individual receives a pay raise with their evaluation.

“We remain very competitive compared to even our neighboring municipalities, and that’s why we are able to attract employees from the neighboring municipalities to come work for us, especially in the public works department and in our utilities department, where these individuals have the various certifications they need in order to progress up the ladder,” he said.

Kinlaw said employing residents inside the city limits should take priority.

“Before we start going out to other entities, industries or jobs, I think we need to take care in-house first to figure out what we need to do to hire Port Arthur people in Port Arthur to keep them here,” he said. “That’s just how I personally feel about it.”