Labor crisis looms for government
About one in five state employees is nearing retirement
As baby boomers reach their golden years, the state government is facing a potentially massive labor crunch that could have some departments losing a third of their workers to retirement.
A study by the state Department of Human Resources shows that 22 percent of the government work force, or about one in five state employees, is closing in on retirement.
The state is Hawaii's largest employer with 49,427 civil service and exempt workers as of June 20, 2005. Of those state workers, 7,220 are between 55 and 59 and another 3,514 are between 60 and 64.
"A significant number of experienced employees, many of whom are in leadership or senior staff positions, can or will be eligible to leave the work force in five years," Marie Laderta, state human resources director, wrote in the report, which was completed last year.
"We have been preparing reports for each department to give them a heads up so they can plan," Laderta said. "There is a big gap between entry level and the retirement age. We don't have a lot with middle experience.
"We are having a problem with institutional knowledge transfer," she said.
Randy Perreira, Hawaii Government Employees Association deputy executive director, says there is a serious concern.
"It appears that our membership is bunched up at either the younger or older levels," Perreira said.
Adding that some state workers "are hanging on because they are loyal to government," Perreira said some departments such as Transportation are facing critical losses.
"There are talented people coming up, but they are not exactly experienced and that causes concerns," Perreira said.
To help out, Laderta said, departments are starting to speed up the training of new hires.
"We are trying to do a lot of shadowing and mentoring and we are looking at apprentice programs for those hard-to-fill programs such as engineers," Laderta explained.
To start getting more people to work for the state, Laderta said she has started a "kamaaina stay home" project, going to high schools to talk up the benefits of state employment.
Perreira also praised the "stay home" project, saying that if high school students knew there were good jobs available in Hawaii, "workers would give more thought to it before just running off to the mainland."
Some of the state benefits are sure to get potential employees' attention: 21 days' paid vacation starting the first year of work and 13 paid holidays every year, with 14 holidays in election years.
The study also has a detailed breakdown on who works for the state.
It shows that 30 percent of the work force is Japanese American, 23 percent is Caucasian, 16 percent is Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian and 11 percent is Filipino American.
The largest work group comprises teachers, with 12,925. They make up 26 percent of the state work force, have an average salary of $47,266, are on average 43 years old and have 11 years' experience.
The highest-paid group are educational officers, such as principals and vice principals, represented by the Hawaii Government Employees Association. Their average age is 51 with an average salary of $79,323.