As the post-pandemic job market has peaked in many areas of the economy, it may seem surprising that one local employer is aggressively hiring: our own Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. DEP is looking to fill 78 new positions by early next year, fueled by a host of new state and federal programs and funding sources. The 78 positions cut across a wide swath of program areas throughout DEP’s regional and central offices; among those positions: 24 in air monitoring and air assessment, 18 in PFAS regulation, 17 in compliance including the Strike Force, 16 in climate change, and 6 in environmental justice. DEP hopes to post even more positions in 2024.
For many years, the DEP headcount has been in retreat. About 20 years ago, DEP employed about 1,500 people, but staffing levels have dropped dramatically since the early 2000s. By 2017, attrition and an early retirement buyout program, among other factors, brought the DEP staff down to under 650. Today, DEP’s headcount stands at about 715.
Several specific factors fuel the recent hiring effort. On the federal level, the three pieces of major federal legislation, the American Rescue Plan and Jobs Act, The Infrastructure Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act, contained major components of state funding for environmental programs. Most of these funding programs expire in 2025 which has created a “use it or lose it” hiring pressure for DEP management. The other major impetus behind the hiring initiative is, of course, the Healey Administration’s adoption and/or implementation of major new state programs centered on climate change, environmental justice, and PFAS regulation.
One interesting aspect of the current hiring program is the way in which DEP is advertising these positions. The agency is aggressively using LinkedIn to reach its applicant pool. According to DEP Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Planning John Beling, the LinkedIn postings have been particularly impactful, with over 4,000 views and 200 applications received directly from these postings. DEP Commissioner Bonnie Heiple and Deputy Commissioner Beling are also re-posting these listings on their own LinkedIn accounts, adding a personal touch to each solicitation. Beling also indicated that DEP is making a concerted effort to reach potential BIPOC applicants and other diverse populations by posting on platforms targeted to those communities.
A few concluding thoughts from this first-of-its-kind hiring program at DEP: First, DEP will certainly need to meet its hiring objectives and take full advantage of the remaining funding available under the recently passed federal statutes if it is to make substantial progress on the Healey Administration’s broad environmental and climate control agenda. Second, the regulated community is well advised to expect a significant uptick in oversight and enforcement from DEP as the agency fills out its hiring plans and deepens its team.
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