Lab Matters Summer 2019 - Page 24

INSTITUTIONAL RESEARCH A New PHL Workforce: The Rise of the Next Generation By: Andrea Wright, associate specialist, Institutional Research The public health laboratory community needs creative yet practical solutions to attract, support and sustain the next generation of laboratory scientists, with a focus on those born between 1981 and 1996. Already, this generation comprises nearly a third of the public health laboratory workforce, and it will continue to rise rapidly through the laboratory ranks over the next decade. To understand the complex factors involved in attracting and sustaining this younger generation of workers, APHL’s Knowledge Management and Workforce Development committees collaborated to gather public health laboratory recruitment and retention practices that have and have not been successful. The committees also developed a recruitment and retention survey administered to state and local laboratory directors, and conducted a focus group of 12 next generation scientists to better understand their views and priorities. Survey to PHL Lab Directors The survey collected recruitment and retention practices and barriers to success. As of publication, 44 responses had been received to this active survey. Seventy-seven percent of respondents identified salary scale as the biggest barrier to recruiting a new generation. Other recruitment barriers include a lack of required experience, career path/ opportunity for promotion and required certification or licensure. Similarly, when survey takers were asked to select their laboratory’s biggest barrier(s) to the retention of high performers, 43% chose salary scale, followed by lack of career path/opportunity for promotion, the complexity of administrative bureaucracy, limited or lack of continuing education opportunities and lack of workforce engagement activities such as rewards, recognition and social events. 22 LAB MATTERS Summer 2019 Next Generation Focus Group In May 2019, APHL asked public health laboratories to nominate at least one scientist to share his or her experiences and sentiments. Laboratories were asked to consider nominees in supervisory and non-supervisory roles as well as different scientific and technical positions. Of the 50+ nominations received, 12 scientists were selected who represented a cross- section of younger laboratory scientists in the US. Members ranged in age from 25 to 38 years and were employed at a public health laboratory from nine months to almost 10 years. Seventy-five percent were female and 25% held a supervisory position. Many had stumbled upon their positions and were unaware of the existence and positive impact of public health laboratories until their employment. They agreed that a public health laboratory offered two benefits: a meaningful job and networking. Although this generation values knowledge sharing, learning and opportunities to work on emerging issues and diseases, the group identified salary as a significant barrier to long-term employment. They valued the benefits package, job security and schedule flexibility at their institutions but found the lack of job mobility, low pay and decreasing benefits as drivers to seek employment elsewhere. Next Generation Laboratorians participate in a one-day focus group at APHL. Next Generation Lab Scientists: • Work as a team to fulfill the public health mission • Appreciate independence in the workplace • Show a passion for networking • Prefer open door policies/transparent communications • Value meaningful work • Function as skilled multi-taskers • Don’t hesitate to be a change agent • Share knowledge and expect the same from others Source: 2018 APHL Workforce Survey At APHL 2019, a roundtable on this project attracted a standing-room only crowd of over 60 participants, further feeding the national conversation. Focus group participants indicated a strong interest in continuing to support recruitment and retention efforts. APHL looks forward to fostering connections among all generations of laboratory scientists. n PublicHealthLabs @APHL