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Challenging time for college HR office amid high-level retirements

Jun 9, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Human resources employees at Central Wyoming College have been busy this year as they work to replace retiring staff members.

"We have loads of searches ongoing," CWC president Jo Anne McFarland said during a May board meeting.

Jennifer Rey, CWC's executive director of human resources, said her department will "do our best" to manage the increased turnover expected in the coming years due to retirements.

"It's cheaper to keep somebody than to recruit new ones," Rey said in March.

In May, she said most of her recent effort has been focused on retention of existing staff. She also wants to make sure current employees are adequately compensated so it's easier to attract new people to the school.

Ron Granger, CWC's vice president for administrative services, said it can be difficult to get people to move to remote Fremont County. Some jobs can be filled by local applicants, he said, but others require outside expertise.

"We just don't have the local talent," he said. "We need to get (candidates) nationwide, or at least area-wide, including other states, to come in and look at us. ... Were trying to expand what our pool of qualified candidates is."

It also is important to help current employees advance their positions: Granger said CWC is trying to implement an "internal development" model that encourages employees to learn more about goings-on at the school.

"We're trying to put people in positions so they can learn the next step up," he said. "It's almost like job shadowing, but just learning the different processes, going to meetings they don't normally go to, so they can find out what's going on."

Adequate financial compensation keeps people satisfied, but Granger said employees tend to be more motivated by what they do on a daily basis.

Searches

Rey outlined the searches under way this spring during her May report to the CWC Board of Trustees.

At that time, there were two faculty positions "in process," with an offer already extended to Kathleen Tilton who will start in July as the new instructor of business and coordinator for CWC's Rural Justice Training Center. She replaces Eric Heiser, who moved to Utah this year.

An instructor of vocal music and director of choral activities has been hired to replace Bob Hussa, who retired last month after 34 years at the school: Adam Kluck, a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison will join the CWC music department faculty in the fall.

CWC's HR department was successful in hiring David Bentz as the new director of distance education who is set to start in June.

A CWC graduate was hired as a technological support specialist. Rey said Fiona Guina has spent the past month learning about the position.

CWC was unsuccessful in retaining the first person who was hired as a software application developer. Rey said she modified the position's title and pay range, but no one else has applied for the job.

"(We) have been talking about what is the next step, where do we go from here," Rey said.

She also is finding it difficult to replace Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service public affairs producer Richard Ager, who died late last year. His job has been posted since February, and six applications had been received as of May.

"The screening committee is determining next steps for this search," Rey said.

A production engineer also is required at WPBS to replace Robert Haight, who has held the job for more than 10 years. Rey said he was instrumental in assisting the station with the upgrade of its production truck, and she has had trouble finding someone who is qualified to take over operation of the vehicle.

"To date that's been open a month, and we've had one applicant," she said.

She has spoken with WPBS general manager Ruby Calvert about more targeted recruiting practices, and they also discussed the possibility of hiring someone who has less experience than the job currently requires.

An unqualified candidate likely would sign a s contract to stay a certain period of time after being trained to fill the spot.

"We will train," Calvert agreed. "This is a highly specific job. ... There aren't very many high-definition production trucks. They're out there, but if they're commercial, they're paying a lot more for those engineers."

In general, she said engineers at WPBS are not paid well compared to commercial engineers.

"So that's another little bit of a hurdle," Calvert said. "Very few stations have trucks like ours, and if they do they're in large markets like Salt Lake City. It's a competitive market search."

She said Haight will remain as a contract employee after his retirement in order to smooth the transition.

CWC has posted a request for an institutional researcher that garnered one application as of May, and a director of marketing and public relations will be required to replace Carolyn Aanestad, who is retiring this spring after more than 30 years on the job.

"We'll go kicking down the road together," McFarland said in April when she requested the board approve Aanestad's retirement request.

McFarland is retiring in June as well. She has served as CWC president for 25 years and has worked at the school for more than 40 years.

Marilyn Waters, a new administrative assistant for TRIO student support services already has started working, as has Airin Owens, CWC's new financial aid technician.

Rustler graduate Amara Fehring is the new recreation activities coordinator at CWC having started in April.

Separations at the end of this semester include Marcia Male, an instructor of nursing in Jackson whose employment ended effective May 17; Angel Sparkman, professor of business management online, who resigned effective May 16; Stacey Nelson, adult basic education instructor, who resigned effective May 17; Gary Downs, disability services coordinator, who resigned effective May 15; and Dana Nicholls, workforce training coordinator, who resigned effective May 5.

In February, McFarland said a professor of Native American studies and math and engineering professor Norman Shinkle would retire effective May 17.

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