The Chief-Leader DCAS Striving to Give Job Seekers Updates on Progress of Applications by Dan Rosenblum

The Chief-Leader
The Chief-Leader
DCAS Striving to Give Job Seekers Updates on Progress of Applications
Dan Rosenblum

DCAS Striving to Give Job Seekers Updates on Progress of Applications

Department of Citywide Administrative Services officials said last week that while it would be a “big lift for the IT team,” they supported a push to make more information available for city job-seekers.

Put Updates Online

I. Daneek Miller, who chairs the City Council’s Civil Service and Labor Committee, urged DCAS to develop a streamlined online portal for candidates to apply, check their positions on the lists and see the status of their applications.

Job-seekers can apply for city positions online, but the process—which involves taking an exam, awaiting the results, being placed on a hiring list, interviewing, and being selected from the list—can take anywhere from six months to four years. A website would be more helpful for candidates who no longer live at the same address, and could provide more information than the phone-based system that DCAS now operates, Mr. Miller said.

“This kind of avoids those pitfalls because you can always pull it up and see what’s going on over there, whether you’ve moved or not,” he said following a March 30 oversight hearing on the civil-service system. “Your data is online and you can access that data. I think it really opens up the process to a lot more people.”

Mr. Miller’s non-binding resolution, which urges DCAS to adopt such a system, has picked up eight co-sponsors since he introduced it in December.

DCAS has performed more outreach, such as a “Civil Service 101” program that sends officials across the five boroughs to explain the hiring process to prospective employees. It will soon open a computerized-testing center in Kew Gardens, Queens, and is eyeing locations in The Bronx and Staten Island.

Fill in the Gaps

The portal, which Mr. Miller said he hopes will be developed by the end of the year, would fill in the gaps in information after applying for a job. “How do you track it in a transparent way to know that you paid your money, that you’re getting a fair shake?” he said. “What happens in between?”

Deputy Commissioner of Human Capital Dawn Pinnock said the agency was working on an open-data project to make list certifications more available. Staffers are also working to integrate databases that were developed independently to offer a “one-stop shop” experience.

“It’s an IT issue in terms of getting the functionality up and running,” she said. “But as the business [division], certainly, we’re working very closely to make sure that we’re providing the information that our customers maybe have not been receiving through these other disparate systems.”

DCAS Commissioner Li­sette Camilo acknowledged there were technological hurdles. “The challenge for us is because we do have a number of disparate systems, we have to figure out how to do it technically and plan that out,” she said. “But I think that we certainly are supportive of the goal and we’re looking to work forward with you and our IT team to make that happen.”

Provisional Extensions?

Councilman Ben Kallos, Chair of the Governmental Operations Committee, followed up on a slight uptick in provisional hiring discussed during a budget hearing two weeks earlier.

To comply with the 2007 Long Beach decision by the state Court of Appeals that limited provisional appointments to nine months, the Bloomberg administration created a five-year plan to reduce the number of provisionals by 8,600. That plan was extended in 2014, and Ms. Camilo said she anticipated another extension. “That was always the intention when we submitted the initial one,” she said, though she declined to speculate on how long the deferment would be.

There were 22,954 city employees who hadn’t taken civil-service exams at the time the plan began. They were reduced to 21,416 in December 2014, but rose to 23,052 in the most recent count. Though DCAS gave 290 exams over the past two years—a record high for the agency—the de Blasio administration continued to hire provisionals to meet pressing needs.

“The city is faced with a number of operational challenges that it must meet on a daily basis,” Ms. Camilo said. “The city continues to hire to address the fulfillment of mandates and new priorities.”

She said there was “substantial headway” in reaching its goal. Lists for the Administrative Manager and Administrative Staff Analyst, once they are published later this year, should substanially reduce the number of provisionals.

Where New Jobs Are

Many of the new hikes were in larger agencies such as NYC Transit where the number of applicants passing the Car Inspector exam doesn’t generally meet its hiring needs. The Department of Education also expanded Occupational Therapist and Physical Therapist titles. “They used the list, the list was exhausted, they still needed to hire additional staffing for the schools,” Ms. Pinnock said.

DCAS is also seeking to reclassify employees working in 389 titles with fewer than 20 employees. Steam Fitter and Supervisor Steam Fitter titles will require competitive tests next year; the state Civil Service Commission in September approved a proposal to reclassify the Marine Electronics Technician and Port Marine Engineer titles; and DCAS also consolidated Supervisor of Bridge Operations and Bridge Operators into one title with four assignment levels.

“While at first glance, this appears to only affect five titles with few incumbents, this also represents a decrease in titles for which we need to develop examinations,” Ms. Camilo said.