Ohio county's one-day hiring event nets 126 CO job offers

An expedited application process combined with a new starting salary of $24 an hour may mean the county meets its hiring goal

By Kaitlin Durbin
Advance Ohio Media
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Ebony Tipton was ready to trade in her scrubs for a badge four years ago when she applied to be a corrections officer with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department the first time, but the price wasn't right.

At the time, she recalls the pay hovering about $16 an hour, not enough for her to comfortably live on. She went into health care instead.

"But now it's up to $24 (an hour), so that's going to be a bright flag to people to apply," Ebony, 34, said while filling out her application at the county's first-ever consolidated hiring event on Wednesday.

If all 126 COs are confirmed, it would bring jail staffing up to about 676 — above the 650 that County Executive Armond Budish accounts for in his proposed 2022-23 budget.
If all 126 COs are confirmed, it would bring jail staffing up to about 676 — above the 650 that County Executive Armond Budish accounts for in his proposed 2022-23 budget. (Lynn Ischay/The Plain Dealer)

Candidates who met all of the qualifications were able to apply, test, be screened and interviewed, and leave with a contingent job offer within a couple hours.

Officials hoped the expedited process would encourage more qualified candidates to sign up — filling a growing number of vacancies in the jail — by eliminating the typical six-week wait they believe has been scaring applicants away. Those who received a job offer Wednesday could start by Nov. 8.

Sheriff Christopher Viland said he was "floored" by the 181 men and women who showed up eager to join the ranks. He recognized a few applicants who had worked for the department previously and were seeking to return. Others came dressed in uniforms from security jobs where they're already employed.

"This is enough of a success that I'm going to push to do this again," Viland said, adding he'd hold the next event on the southeast side of the county.

By the end of the event, 139 of the 181 applicants passed the civil service test, the county said Thursday. Of those, 126 were provided conditional offers.

If all 126 are confirmed, it would bring jail staffing up to about 676. That's below the 725 positions authorized by County Council but above the 650 that County Executive Armond Budish accounts for in his proposed 2022-23 budget. Budish, last week, recommended removing funding for roughly 75 corrections officer positions that he says routinely go unfilled because hiring can't keep up with turnover.

"The job isn't for everybody," Associate Warden Kevin O'Donnell said, recognizing the jail's struggle to attract and retain officers. "But it's something different every day, and you may have an impact on somebody's life just by listening to them."

The gap in workforce isn't for a lack in interest in the job, officials argue.

Last month, 230 people applied to be a corrections officer, county records show. Historically, though, very few make it all the way through the process, Julie McNulty, manager of talent and acquisition and employment in the county's human resources department, said.

Numbers were immediately slashed in half when 125 applicants failed to pass the civil service test, she said. The remaining 105 hopefuls are now moving through the screening process, but she expects to lose about 65 percent of them.

She blamed the steep drop-off on the lengthy hiring process.

"With the job market now, people can apply for a job and start on Monday," she said, comparing it to the county's process, which can take over a month to finalize. "We would have a lot more (hires) if it didn't take six weeks."

Officials said they may be considering similar events in the future to help fill vacancies in other government offices.

For applicant Charmain Clark, time wasn't a deciding factor in her decision to apply now. At 21, she's newly eligible and has been waiting to extend her family's legacy in law enforcement. Four other family members already work in the field, some as corrections officers, she said.

Fred McLaurin, 53, also is no stranger to the field. After working in mental health for 25 years, he made the switch to law enforcement two years ago, serving in the medical unit at a jail outside of Cuyahoga County.

Then the pandemic hit and he said he was out three months with complications from COVID-19. He lost his job.

Now, he's looking to rejoin.

"Most people don't think about it, but there are sons, daughters, and mothers who are incarcerated and it's our job to make it as safe a place for them to be as we can," McLaurin said.

Two hours into the event, Tipton had to leave for her current job before completing all seven steps needed to secure the new offer, but she planned to complete the process later this week. She's been working toward a degree in criminal justice from Cuyahoga Community College and, with one semester left, is ready to apply what she's learned.

"I love what I do, but I think this will be a good fit," she said. "I want to get back to what I'm going to school for.
(c)2021 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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