PENDLETON, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Corrections is facing a major staffing shortage and is recruiting to close those gaps.

Half of the department’s employees are eligible to retire in the next five years and 32 percent can retire right now, The East Oregonian reported ( State corrections Workforce Planning Manager Steve Cox said public safety is in need of new recruits nationwide.

“Just in the state of Oregon, we have a need of over 500 police officers,” he said

Cox said replacing retirees can be a challenge, as Oregon’s unemployment rate is only 5 percent and applicants can shop around for the best public safety job. Some agencies offer hiring bonuses of several thousand dollars, while others are willing to start new employees high up on the pay scale. The Department of Corrections doesn’t have those options though, Cox said.

To help combat the looming staff shortage the department held job fairs for the Oregon State Penitentiary and Oregon State Correctional Institution, both in Salem, and Cox said others are coming this fall and winter.

Fairs are full-service for applicants and help potential corrections officers fill out paperwork, complete criminal background checks, view presentations on the prisons, complete state job applications, take national standardized test and sit for job interviews.

“If we can be the first one to offer them a job,” Cox said, “we have a better chance of filling our positions.”

Meghan Ridling, 23, of Hermiston, attended a Pendleton job fair last weekend. She said she has worked in ranching in the past and is now looking to make a career in corrections.

“I think you have to have the right mindset,” she said. “It’s a difficult job and not for everybody, but if you want to help people, it can be good.”

Information from: East Oregonian,

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