Hiring dispatchers a challenge as agency seeks to fill vacancies | Local News
Hiring dispatchers can currently take up to three months, a process that over the years has been streamlined because it used to take six to eight months to onboard new carriers, said city manager Josh Nielsen. -county Joint Services.
In the past, in-person skills testing limited the number of candidates to 10 at a time from a pool of approximately 150 to 200. Test rooms and proctors had to be scheduled in advance. Today, skills tests are taken online. However, the pool of applicants, until recently, had dwindled to around 40, according to Nielsen. Over the past few months. But Joint Services has been vigorous in its efforts to recruit potential talent, with the current pool growing to 115.
“Until this last one (job pool), we were getting maybe 40 applicants, and out of the 40 applicants, we would be lucky to have a few people,” Nielsen told the executive committee. In some cases, half of the candidates didn’t even try to take the tests.
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Then there are interviews and background checks.
“We do a background check on everyone. We obviously check their criminal background. There are certain restrictions there, in terms of their criminal history,” he said. “There are the type of situations where…because of the systems that we give people access to, they have to have a clean criminal record.”
Once hired, they go through classroom training to become an emergency telecommunicator, according to Nikki Beranis, communications manager at Joint Services.
“He teaches the basics, the very basics of what this job is going to entail. Everything from radio communications to handling difficult callers,” said Beranis, who oversees the training. “I myself give a presentation on stress management so that they have an idea of what they will face once in post.
New recruits then enter training phases learning first how to take 911 calls, as well as a course in emergency medical dispatch, then radio dispatch, usually starting with fire calls before to go to law enforcement.
Beranis said she was able to assess “pretty quickly” whether a dispatcher-in-training is right for the job based on their level of commitment.
“They participate in their own training. You can see when people are invested because they are on their own…they go through their training manual. They read the documents, they study,” she said.