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Public Employee Shortage in NM & Indigenous Leaders React to Española Shooting

I’m excited to join the NMPBS team this week as a correspondent, building on the partnership between the station and KUNM Radio, where listeners usually find me hosting NPR’s “All Things Considered.” This week’s roundtable discussion on New Mexico in Focus builds on reporting I’ve done at KUNM on the shortage of public employees, which has persisted both nationally and locally since the pandemic.

We’ve assembled a group of key players when it comes to working for state and local governments, including the secretary of the Workforce Solutions Department Sarita Nair, Acting Director of the State Personnel Office Dylan Lange, AFSCME Council 18 President Casey Padilla, and Acting HR Director at the City of Albuquerque Patricia Tafoya-Harris.

We’ll get a grasp on the scope of the staffing shortages in departments that provide public services — including a nearly 25% vacancy rate at the state. There are a number of factors driving the issue, and we’ll explore what our panelists are hearing from former and would-be employees, as well as what their own data shows.

What role has the pandemic played in this? What about retirements amid an aging workforce? How can the public sector keep up with private business wages and hold on to more workers? And what happens when the state’s oil- and gas-fueled record budget inevitably falters?

We hear about what it looks like on the ground when public services are short staffed and what efforts the state, city and labor union are taking on to help shore up the workforce.

– Nash Jones, KUNM reporter, NMiF correspondent