March 8, 2023
Low pay hinders State’s recruitment of environmental engineers
MSEA-SEIU Member Kerem Gungor provided the testimony below as a private citizen Feb. 16 to the Maine Legislature’s Appropriations Committee and Environmental and Natural Resources Committee:
Senator Rotundo, Representative Sachs, and members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee; Senator Brenner, Representative Gramlich, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee,
My name is Kerem Gungor. I am a senior environmental engineer at DEP Bureau of Land Resources. I am writing this testimony to express my personal experience with engineer recruitment and share my personal thoughts with the Committee. I am currently supervising two environmental engineers and one assistant environmental engineer. I have two vacancies in my team: one environmental engineer, one assistant environmental engineer. The Bureau of Land Resources relies on my team’s technical expertise to ensure that the land development projects are permitted in compliance with the state’s stormwater regulations so that their impact on Maine’s waters is mitigated.
Since I assumed this supervisory position in March 2022, I tried to recruit for the vacant environmental engineer position which requires the successful candidate to have a “professional engineer” license issued by the State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers. None of the applicants was qualified for the position; hence, we could not move forward with interviews and fill the position. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence. Before I assumed the senior environmental engineer position, the Bureau attempted to hire an environmental engineer. This attempt was also unsuccessful. Non-competitive salary is a major reason hampering recruitment. I must note that DEP provides 11% stipend on top of the base pay for the engineers. Even the pay augmented with this stipend does not attract qualified professionals.
Another evidence that demonstrates the non-competitive nature of the current pay schedule is as follows: successful candidates almost always negotiate to start at a higher step since Step 1 pay offered to new employees by policy is too low for most candidates to accept. Supervisory staff like me allocate a significant amount of their time into employee recruitment efforts and find themselves unable to fill vacancies due to the pay gap which is beyond their control.
I believe that it is past time to address the pay gap and re-adjust the base pay schedules to eliminate the need for stopgap measures like providing stipends for the engineers.
I appreciate the opportunity to provide my personal testimony on this important issue. Respectfully submitted,