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I can't believe they can't fill these positions!

I kind of like @Sytes idea for some kind of hiring authority or preference or employment assistance for spouses.
Universities do this all the time. "Spousal accommodation". Not sure if federal agencies do too (@Hunting Wife ?). But yes agreed that's a problem too. Especially since even in some rural areas, housing is becoming too expensive for single-income folks.
 
Universities do this all the time. "Spousal accommodation". Not sure if federal agencies do too (@Hunting Wife ?). But yes agreed that's a problem too. Especially since even in some rural areas, housing is becoming too expensive for single-income folks.
Military does. Others might but I don’t know. Mine does not do it, but I don’t know to what degree they have the authority but choose not to via policy.
 
I guess more issues to consider is what are the conditions like, for say a young family. Are the schools good? do they even have a school there? is their work that a spouse can get? what's the services like out there? You could make the salary $100k but if theirs nothing out their to attract people, its a helpless fight.

In my community we're kinda having the same issue with paramedics. Our wages average $52.70/hour before OT, OT kicks in after 40 hours and typically its 4 on 3 off rotation with basically unlimited OT if you want it. Plus full benefits and student debt reimbursements. We still can't find people
 
I can get on board with some kind of repayment of student loans after so many years of service. Lots of states do that for hard-to-fill positions or locations. For example, Alaska will pay off your student loan if you go out to teach in some of the remote villages for a few years. ND will pay off loans if you work in certain sectors of public service in rural communities for like 10 years I believe. Many states will pay off med school bills for folks that go practice in underserved rural communities. I think if you are filling a job for which there is a proven need, repayment to help attract applicants is fine.

Giving away public land as a job perk is a nonstarter for me.


Lack of pay is certainly a large part of the problem, but the remote living and lack of access to job opportunities for spouses is also a significant issue. Being stationed in Plentywood or Harlowton doesn’t give your significant other a lot of options for work, which can be a deal breaker when living costs are so high and wages so low. I kind of like @Sytes idea for some kind of hiring authority or preference or employment assistance for spouses.
I think 10 years is too long. No matter the time frame I would require that the person be in good standing with their student loan debt and be working towards payoff. I don’t want people to take out loans and keep putting them on deferral because they know if they work for X time for the agency they will have their loans paid off.
 
I guess more issues to consider is what are the conditions like, for say a young family. Are the schools good? do they even have a school there? is their work that a spouse can get? what's the services like out there? You could make the salary $100k but if theirs nothing out their to attract people, its a helpless fight.

In my community we're kinda having the same issue with paramedics. Our wages average $52.70/hour before OT, OT kicks in after 40 hours and typically its 4 on 3 off rotation with basically unlimited OT if you want it. Plus full benefits and student debt reimbursements. We still can't find people
After enough years in public service you will hate other people so you try to get somewhere where no one else is. 😂
 
I guess more issues to consider is what are the conditions like, for say a young family. Are the schools good? do they even have a school there? is their work that a spouse can get? what's the services like out there? You could make the salary $100k but if theirs nothing out their to attract people, its a helpless fight.

In my community we're kinda having the same issue with paramedics. Our wages average $52.70/hour before OT, OT kicks in after 40 hours and typically its 4 on 3 off rotation with basically unlimited OT if you want it. Plus full benefits and student debt reimbursements. We still can't find people
I think this hits the nail on the head. As society in general loses its connection with rural life and the outdoors, fewer and fewer people really want to live in rural areas.
I think 10 years is too long. No matter the time frame I would require that the person be in good standing with their student loan debt and be working towards payoff. I don’t want people to take out loans and keep putting them on deferral because they know if they work for X time for the agency they will have their loans paid off.
I don’t know what the right timeframe is, but when the agency foots the bill for FLETC, Academy training, field training etc in excess of $100k per officer, they should at least get a return on that investment before paying anything out in loan repayment.
 
Far from an expert on government anything, but one thing I don't get is the incessant desire to move folks around, uprooting lives, schooling, and spousal careers. My SIL made the list for promotion to the highest enlisted rank (save Sgt. Major of the Army) IF he would serve 5 more years and they would move 2x in 5 years. Why? Not like he would be doing a different job. Obv not doing it; they have a beautiful home at 3%, and a great school system.

I'll bet this deters a lot of people.
 
I think this hits the nail on the head. As society in general loses its connection with rural life and the outdoors, fewer and fewer people really want to live in rural areas.

I don’t know what the right timeframe is, but when the agency foots the bill for FLETC, Academy training, field training etc in excess of $100k per officer, they should at least get a return on that investment before paying anything out in loan repayment.
I don’t know the correct time period either. The only reason I think 10 years is to long is because my student loans had a 10 year term with regular payment. If you require them to make regular payments to be eligible for the program it wouldn’t be much of an incentive if they have their loan payed in full when they become eligible.

Maybe they have changed the terms on student loans, idk.
 
Okay. That's one thought.

I think it's a slap in the face to continue to ALWAYS be under staffed. Wildlife doesn't benefit from vacancies.

Sign me up for thinking people that care about wildlife > someone who has a degree. The piece of paper I have doesn't mean a gd thing, except I paid a bunch of money for it. The longer I work the less I care about that piece of paper and the more I care about people.

I agree on with your point re: staffing issues and how that’s not right, either.

And yes, that piece of paper isn’t everything, but it’s tangible evidence of benefits that come with going through a BS program, regardless of the degree. Wardens used to be required to have either a wildlife or criminology degree, but that requirement was relaxed a few years back for this same issue—to improve recruitment. That was unfortunate, and we’re back at where we were then. So the main reason I don’t think it’s the right solution is that we know it doesn’t work.

I don’t want to imply that an individual who doesn’t have a degree shouldn’t be a warden, but I see the lowering of that requirement, instead of upping salaries, playing out like this: maybe a couple of people that would make good wardens would apply. Maybe. But even those ‘qualified’ vis-a-vis ‘life experience’ or other means still might not be encouraged to apply given pay. And those people are still deserving of a fair and reasonable salary. Instead, I see high school grads with no little to no life experience applying, or other people who might not be able to jump in with the necessary resource knowledge (and there’s more to it than being an avid hunter or outdoorsman), or skills necessary to literally solve cases and write reports that could successfully lead to a prosecution, interpret laws, read and interview people, etc. Disagree all you want with that. And to the argument that some people d**k around all through college and graduate anyway, a lot of them would be weeded out through the hiring/interview/FTO process. Regardless of degree a lot of college grads get the exposure and critical thinking skills that would help give them a leg up when they hit the field.

I can really empathize with those that have equivalent skills and experience and no degree. But I can guarantee that if degree requirements are relaxed to improve recruitment when pay is a big issue, pay will never improve. Why would FWP lower their requirements and then give wardens a raise? It could be well viewed as an excuse not to. And that’s to everyone’s detriment. The degree requirement actually creates a good argument for a pay raises. According to the warden in my family, most of them don’t want that requirement lowered, so I’d also defer to what they wanted, too.

And, the really maddening thing is that FWP recently did their big re-organization which created 40 some new FTE (mainly in parks, maintenance, and recreation). Plus, all of the upper management and the lowest-paid employees got 11-30% raises within the last couple years. (Needed for the lower-paid employees for sure). Wardens and biologists were among the only ones left out of that, so it’s not like FWP doesn’t have the $$ and can’t give raises, they choose not to.
 
I agree on with your point re: staffing issues and how that’s not right, either.

And yes, that piece of paper isn’t everything, but it’s tangible evidence of benefits that come with going through a BS program, regardless of the degree. Wardens used to be required to have either a wildlife or criminology degree, but that requirement was relaxed a few years back for this same issue—to improve recruitment. That was unfortunate, and we’re back at where we were then. So the main reason I don’t think it’s the right solution is that we know it doesn’t work.

I don’t want to imply that an individual who doesn’t have a degree shouldn’t be a warden, but I see the lowering of that requirement, instead of upping salaries, playing out like this: maybe a couple of people that would make good wardens would apply. Maybe. But even those ‘qualified’ vis-a-vis ‘life experience’ or other means still might not be encouraged to apply given pay. And those people are still deserving of a fair and reasonable salary. Instead, I see high school grads with no little to no life experience applying, or other people who might not be able to jump in with the necessary resource knowledge (and there’s more to it than being an avid hunter or outdoorsman), or skills necessary to literally solve cases and write reports that could successfully lead to a prosecution, interpret laws, read and interview people, etc. Disagree all you want with that. And to the argument that some people d**k around all through college and graduate anyway, a lot of them would be weeded out through the hiring/interview/FTO process. Regardless of degree a lot of college grads get the exposure and critical thinking skills that would help give them a leg up when they hit the field.

I can really empathize with those that have equivalent skills and experience and no degree. But I can guarantee that if degree requirements are relaxed to improve recruitment when pay is a big issue, pay will never improve. Why would FWP lower their requirements and then give wardens a raise? It could be well viewed as an excuse not to. And that’s to everyone’s detriment. The degree requirement actually creates a good argument for a pay raises. According to the warden in my family, most of them don’t want that requirement lowered, so I’d also defer to what they wanted, too.

And, the really maddening thing is that FWP recently did their big re-organization which created 40 some new FTE (mainly in parks, maintenance, and recreation). Plus, all of the upper management and the lowest-paid employees got 11-30% raises within the last couple years. (Needed for the lower-paid employees for sure). Wardens and biologists were among the only ones left out of that, so it’s not like FWP doesn’t have the $$ and can’t give raises, they choose not to.
I agree with a lot of what you are saying.
But,
I don’t think anyone is implying that we should be at high school graduations recruiting for wardens, but valuable skills can be gained through ways other than college. I don’t agree with the critical thinking skills. I know a lot of college grads even some with higher degrees than a B.S. who can’t do crap for themselves unless they read it from a book and I know a lot of people without college degrees who just no how stuff works. If you put them in a situation, they figure it out. Why wouldn’t someone who hunts, fishes and recreates outdoors their entire life and goes into Marine Corps at 18 for 4 years and then works as a town cop in Glasgow or Miles City for 2 years without a college degree have a leg up on a candidate with no law enforcement background? They may not have a natural resource degree, but natural resources is such a wide field there is rarely a day that goes by when I don’t have to consult a field guide for species identification or best practices on how to manage that species, even though I have a degree in Natural Resource Management. I know for a fact that our officers here in Iowa have specialties. If an officer has a case involving commercial fishing they work with so and so, if they have a case involving herps they work with officer X and so on down the line.

Of course we want college educated to still apply so have starting pay based on experience. Base pay is X if you only meet the required physical tests, background checks, a basic species ID test, and pass the academy. everything in addition to those basics you can check off adds to your pay. College degree in natural resources add 10k, military add 5k, both add 15k. Etc.
 
I think this hits the nail on the head. As society in general loses its connection with rural life and the outdoors, fewer and fewer people really want to live in rural areas.

I don’t know what the right timeframe is, but when the agency foots the bill for FLETC, Academy training, field training etc in excess of $100k per officer, they should at least get a return on that investment before paying anything out in loan repayment.
A big problem is trying to retain entry level personnel in Conservation Law Enforcement Officer (CLEO) positions at small jurisdictions with lower salary. You pay to complete their FLETC required training and then they become competitive for positions at higher paying locations. CLEO's are a little easier to retain if they are from the area and have a strong affiliation to the specific locale. Regular law enforcement (LE) officers are much more likely to immediately use their newfound FLETC certification to take a job elsewhere, leaving even more of a drain on local resources. My work involves CLEO and LE at a particular subset of low-salary locations and we typically have 40% vacancies in LE because of new hires vacating for higher pay once we provide the FLETC training and certification.
 
Far from an expert on government anything, but one thing I don't get is the incessant desire to move folks around, uprooting lives, schooling, and spousal careers. My SIL made the list for promotion to the highest enlisted rank (save Sgt. Major of the Army) IF he would serve 5 more years and they would move 2x in 5 years. Why? Not like he would be doing a different job. Obv not doing it; they have a beautiful home at 3%, and a great school system.

I'll bet this deters a lot of people.

Not too different with higher up jobs at large corporations. If you want to move up you need to change jobs within the corp every 3-5 yrs.
 
Giving away public land as a job perk is a nonstarter for me.
What if the State owns the land / house - used as incentive to cover housing expense or reduced expense? That is what I revised my comment to reflect. Example, as you may be aware, CBP has some ports of entry that provide housing at reduced rates. Due to the staffing requirements for BP and OFO it's invaluable. Usually for some of those ports of entry - there are three year incentives of 20-40% pay increase...
While CBP does not "fix" the challenges that cause the lack of retention, those perks tend to keep staffing somewhat on par - (band-aid).

An offer of free / reduced housing expense was my intent. My first post Involved an ownership incentive. The post involved with Spousal competitive opportunities for employment offered residence that remains under state ownership.
For sake of retention, to continue free/reduced rate housing figure an option that continues into retirement would encourage longevity.

Options that save money and increase appeal and from my perspective shows Montana appreciation for an underappreciated work load.
 
I see high school grads with no little to no life experience applying, or other people who might not be able to jump in with the necessary resource knowledge (and there’s more to it than being an avid hunter or outdoorsman), or skills necessary to literally solve cases and write reports that could successfully lead to a prosecution, interpret laws, read and interview people, etc. Disagree all you want with that. And to the argument that some people d**k around all through college and graduate anyway, a lot of them would be weeded out through the hiring/interview/FTO process. Regardless of degree a lot of college grads get the exposure and critical thinking skills that would help give them a leg up when they hit the field.
Again, I cannot agree.

Critical thinking and college degrees are unrelated subjects as best I can tell. And whatever benefit an employer may see from their degree is just as likely to be offset by the mountain of entitlement they think the world owes them.

I will grant you that the best future employees likely do go through college but it's only because society has imprinted that expectation on them. College certainly doesn't create any, or much, value in the process.

And I will completely agree on the need for higher wages, but I see that as independent of education requirements.
 
Okay. That's one thought.

I think it's a slap in the face to continue to ALWAYS be under staffed. Wildlife doesn't benefit from vacancies.

Sign me up for thinking people that care about wildlife > someone who has a degree. The piece of paper I have doesn't mean a gd thing, except I paid a bunch of money for it. The longer I work the less I care about that piece of paper and the more I care about people.
I get that, but I would guess you gained something in getting that degree that stays with you. First and most important, you voluntarily signed up to work hard and actually completed the degree. You probably learned things like being able to handle criticism and maybe failure, how to work with people different from you, basic listening, and critical thought, etc. I'm not saying these things can't be learned other places and the hard requirement on a degree probably is just a way to shortcut out some of the unqualified. I would think the test is probably college-level as well. Military experience should probably qualify, even if the wildlife aspect is gone. But I don't really think they want an 19yo kid who chose not to go to college and cut grass for his uncle over summer while partying with his buddies to throw his app in the pile. Almost all of the Wardens I encountered were solo. Handing that kid a gun and uniform and telling him to enforce a bunch of often complex laws seems like a recipe for bad things happening.
 
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like being able to handle criticism and maybe failure, how to work with people different from you, basic listening, and critical thought, etc
Maybe they should do on the Job training similar to an apprenticeship. You want criticism and basic listening you're going to get it.

But I don't really think they want an 19yo kid who chose not to go to college and cut grass for his uncle over summer while partying with his buddies
I wouldn't want to hand one over to a 22 year old kid who spent the last 4 summers mowing grass for his uncle while partying with his college buddies either.

I'm not trying to make this people are better or worse off for going to college thing. There are plenty of people who either have it or they don't college beside. I tend to think 4 years of on the job training while graduating from an academy and would turn out to be a hell of a lot better performance upon day of hire than someone with zero experience and a degree.
 
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Maybe they should do on the Job training similar to an apprenticeship. You want criticism and basic listening your going to get it.


I wouldn't want to hand one over to a 22 year old kid who spent the last 4 summers mowing grass for his uncle while partying with his college buddies either.

I'm not trying to make this people are better or worse off for going to college thing. There are plenty of people who either have it or they don't college beside. I tend to think 4 years of on the job training while graduating from an academy and would turn out to be a hell of a lot better performance upon day of hire than someone with zero experience and a degree.
Agree. College certainly doesn't mean anything absolute, other than maybe providing a foundation on which to build. I think the Military experience could do the same (more socialism, LOL). Maybe just the four years led to some maturity that would have happened anyway and the age requirement should be 21? My only pushback to OTJ training would be the pay is so stinking low now that the cost of having an experienced person chaperone someone around for 4 years is probably undoable. Reading the job description, I doubt the problem is just one thing. Some of the openings are probably in the most remote areas and has been noted, may turn off any candidates with a family. These are not always easy places to live for newbie law enforcement.

All that said, across the country there is a shortage of candidates in all kinds of jobs that pay a lot more than the Warden position. There is no way to make a qualified nurse, doctor, dentist, police officer, or game warden in 6 months.
 
I don’t think it’s a matter of experience, or even skills. I think it’s a matter of interest. All I can base my opinion on is my experience with different hiring requirements in different agencies, and the types of wardens we end up with as a result.

About 10 years ago, our agency went to a strong veterans preference. Where we used to hire mostly folks with wildlife degrees, we now hire more than 90% veterans and former police. Since then turnover had increased dramatically and relationships between LE and resource management staff has declined. I don’t bother calling most of the LE guys in my own agency anymore because there are always excuses why they can’t come out, why they can’t chase down a lead, and they are always too busy helping the local deputies with drug cases and other non-wildlife stuff. They just have little interest in wildlife enforcement. It’s too boring. They want to be catching felons, making drug busts, and basically anything more adrenaline inducing than catching over-baggers and deer wasters. We are on our 5th officer in the last 4 years, with the 6th in the pipeline.

Unless it’s something they don’t have jurisdiction over, I call the local state guys when I have an enforcement issue that needs to be addressed. These guys are all products of wildlife or natural resource programs. They have been here for 20, 12, 5 and 4 years. They are always responsive and work their asses off to make wildlife cases. The differences in priorities and passion between these two groups of folks hired to do essentially the same job is stark.

None of this should be taken to imply that military folks don’t make good officers or can’t do the job. On paper, they are all “qualified”. But I have observed a frequent and significant misalignment between interests and the duties of the job. One of these recruiting strategies is more effective at recruiting good wardens and one is not, IMO. Apparently there is a big difference between being a good cop and being a good warden.

At least if someone put in the time and investment of pursuing a wildlife/natural resource degree, it demonstrates an elevated interest in the subject matter that to me appears essential in a good warden. I’m not sure how else to target people that really have a passion for this type of enforcement, because it is very clearly not for everyone.
 
To both @SAJ-99 and @Hunting Wife Im simply saying that if someone was to go on a 4 year internship or apprenticeship that woukd also signal a level of interest and dedication meanwhile maybe making a small amd I mean small income certainly like a viable option. Only one missing out would be the university on there 200k.
 
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To both @SAJ-99 and @Hunting Wife Im simply saying that if someone was to go on a 4 year internship or apprenticeship that woukd also signal a level of interest and dedication meanwhile maybe making a small amd I mean small income certainly like a viable option. Only one missing out soukd be the university on there 200k.
I hear you Nick, and your idea is a decent one. I think this is an interesting discussion and some of the outside the box solutions might be just what we need. Lord knows what we’ve been doing isn’t working very well.
 
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