Tons of millennials work for the city, but old-timers run the show
There are two reasons why Rich Negrin, Philadelphia’s managing director, has spearheaded a new project to get more young folks working for the city.
The main one: about a third of city employees will be eligible for retirement soon. Two: Negrin isn't the only one who feels that young people have been kept out of the mix.
But let’s back up.
After surveying the human resources department, Negrin’s office saw a problem on the horizon. Mark Dent reported for Billy Penn that in “...up to five years, some 36 percent of city employees will be eligible for retirement or at least a deferred retirement plan. That’s a really big deal. It means Philadelphia will have about 9,000 positions to fill. It also means the city’s current batch of employees isn’t too reflective of the much-discussed youthful boom Philadelphia is currently experiencing.”
Some 9,000 positions is a lot for the city that employs over 30,000 across 55 departments. That’s almost one-third of all city jobs. But to Dent’s second point, a question:
Is the municipal workforce really overrun with old-timers? Is it all Jerry from Parks and Rec with no Tom Haverford?
The short answer is no.
32 percent (almost 10,000 employees) are between 18 and 38 years old. Yes, the age cutoff for the millennial demographic is technically 34 years, but the Department of Human Resources bundles age by the decade (18-28, 28-38, etc.). Even so, about one-third of all employees are 40 and under.
Even more so for non-civil service employees, which make up almost 5,800 of the 30,000 city jobs. Of these civil service exempt positions — which include the military and judicial branches, as well as all elected politicians — 43 percent are held by the youngish 18-38 crowd.
So why a recruitment board?
“To me, it’s really about the fact that we’re going to be losing a lot of people in the next three to five years. So it’s not so much that I’m identifying that there’s a huge gap in that demographic per se,” Negrin said.
But that's not to say there isn't a gap. Younger professionals working for the city don’t hold many managerial positions. Negrin says that the city is “...young on the lower-level entry policy positions” but not “in terms of operational experience and running departments and managing experience.”
It's no surprise to some. During the last primary election, certain Political Action Committees worked to oust some of the long-time incumbents on City Council. (No member currently on City Council is under 41 years old, and there are several council members who have held seats for 20-plus years.) On the executive level, some offices boast super high diversity percentages across the board (age, race, gender) — Negrin’s office being a prime example at 83 percent.
Alas, there’s a lot of work to do.
With the Millennial Recruitment Advisory Board, Negrin hopes to attract folks who have an opportunity to create a long-term careers with the city, and also get into positions where they can have a big impact. “We’re going to get young whether we want to or not," he said.
How is it done?
Basically, the municipality has to compete with the private sector, which in most cases pays more for the same type of position.
For civil service positions in the city, the lowest salary is around $26,000 for temp clerical assistant. The highest paid position is the city’s medical examiner, who can make anywhere between $202,000 and $260,000.
For exempt civil service positions, positions range from $25,000 to over $300,000 (CC: Dr. Hite). According to Albert L. D'Attilio, the city’s director of human resources, there’s a much larger percentage of executive positions on the non-civil service side — which, for whatever reason, has far more 18-40 workers than the civil service side.
(Note: AL DÍA requested the figures for age of city employers by salary and position. We will update this article once we've analyzed the data.)
Ultimately, there’s a lot of rebranding to be done. Negrin has appointed Caroline Olson to oversee the Millennial Recruitment Advisory Board. Olson has taken the helm of getting members on the board and overseeing the process.
As a result of the Billy Penn article on the board, a number of interested millennials have reached out about getting involved. Olson said she’s now decided to set up an executive board and other sub-committees in order to expand the engagement.
How inclusive will it be?
There’s no evidence yet about the level of diversity on the panel. Currently, the board has 12 members. Some names have been released, but Olson won’t release the full list until another four or five members have been added.
There’s a common criticism that a ‘millennial’ in mainstream discourse refers mostly to college-educated people who live in Center City. To this, Olson said that the board will have “...a focus on educating in the communities who are underserved, and who need jobs and don’t necessarily feel like they have access to them.”
Racial diversity in city employment is somewhat representative of the white and Black populations in the city, but less so for Asians and Latinos.
A lot of the recruitment process comes down to dispelling myths about civil service and getting people comfortable enough to apply for a position. This can mean anything from restylizing the job listings on the city website to further defining exactly what “civil service” means and why it’s important.
“Civil service is this vague, lumbering term,” Olson said. “It sort of intimidates people.”
At the end of the day, that’s what the millennial recruitment board hopes to undo.