The Army Corps of Engineers, for example, has about 150 unfilled jobs in its New Orleans district office. In addition, it has only 22 engineering students in a training program, rather than the typical 80 to 100, because local colleges have cut back or eliminated engineering classes.The USACE seems to be confronting the same problems recruiting and retaining employees as every other business in the area:
Cheryl Weber , director of the Corps civilian personnel advisory center in New Orleans, said that job applicants are asking more specific questions about housing, schools and living costs than before Katrina and that many decide against pursuing employment after taking such factors into consideration.It doesn’t necessarily worry me that the USACE can’t recruit new people to come to the area. But this does worry me:
Retirements are picking up, she said, and the Corps is offering relocation and retention bonuses in a bid to keep critical jobs filled.
To keep up with its workload, the Corps also has been bringing in employees from other parts of the country, usually on 120-day temporary assignments, Weber said.
The Corps had about 1,230 employees in the New Orleans district before Katrina, and about 300 lost their homes. Many of the displaced are working full time and hope to rebuild, but they are exhausted by long workdays and long commutes, Weber said.The USACE, the government entity responsible for protecting New Orleans from hurricanes, can’t even convince its own New Orleans employees that they will get through this hurricane season "without anything bad happening."
For many New Orleans area employees, she said, the goal is to get through this hurricane season "without anything bad happening." She said, "A lot are on pause, waiting to see."
Honestly, who can blame them for being worried?