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Onondaga County lawmakers looking at state program to help fill health, public safety jobs

A white Gothic building on a street.
Chris Bolt
The Onondaga County Legislature Building in Syracuse, NY.

Onondaga County legislators on Tuesday discussed a proposal that would address major staffing issues for critical health and public safety positions.

The New York Department of Civil Service's Hiring Emergency Limited Placement, or HELP, program, would speed up the hiring process by removing the hurdle of a civil service exam.

Jobs like 911 dispatchers and social workers have had high levels of vacancies in Onondaga County.

Onondaga County Commissioner of Personnel Carl Hummel said the civil service exam, a test required for potential critical health and safety candidates, typically slows down the hiring process and can discourage potential job candidates to sign up.

Hummel said eliminating the civil service exam will encourage more people to apply for these jobs.

"It’s the recruitment issue of trying to get people to take civil service exams and them not wanting to take it because of the process," Hummel told lawmakers during a county legislature committee meeting. "The labor force has changed. People aren’t willing to wait six, eight months, a year for a job.”

Hummel said before the program can begin the state needs to approve specific job positions as eligible, which may happen toward the end of the year

Maurice is a sophomore student at Syracuse's Newhouse School, majoring in Broadcast and Digital Journalism. He has been a student producer with WAER since February 2023.