California Public Service System: Challenges and Opportunities

The California Public Service System, officially called the State of California Personnel Board (SCPB), is a key institution in the state. First instituted in the year 1934, the civil service system has upheld high standards of equality and fairness in its history. The history of SCPB is intricately linked to the history of the country as a whole and hence the changes witnessed in the board were also seen nationwide. At the same time, due to the unique demographic composition of the state of California, with a high percentage of ethnic minorities, the SCPB had at times taken a leadership role in extending equal job opportunities to residents. For example, during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the board was sympathetic to the cause of African Americans. It is no coincidence that the civil rights movement found its highest expression in the state of California. And in the movement’s aftermath the employee roll of the board reflected this newfound equality in opportunity. The board has strived hard to uphold this spirit even today and provides employment based on merit and free of political patronage (www.spb.ca.gov, 2010).

The political atmosphere of today is quite different from what it was in the 1960s. Today it is the phenomenon of illegal immigration and the burgeoning Hispanic American population that is the central talking point. Since the state of California sees the largest influx of illegal immigrants, it is imperative that the SCPB be proactive in devising a fair and just system of employment. Hence it its history of over seventy years, this is the biggest challenge that the board has faced. And only a concerted effort at all levels of the board hierarchy and local departments would lead to a robust and implementable solution for this problem. (Population and Population Centers by State: 2000, 2002)

Despite California being home to plenty of illegal immigrants, the entire community is disqualified from applying for civil service jobs. As a result, they are forced to seek private sector employment, where their vulnerability and illegitimacy is thoroughly exploited. Moreover, they do not get any benefits in the form of health insurance, job security, etc. In recent years Hispanic Americans have overtaken African Americans as the most populous minority group in the country. Hence, it is no longer socio-politically prudent to ignore the needs and demands of this group. California being the most sought after destination for Latin émigré’s it is imperative that the SCPB take initiative to provide job opportunities for this key group. (Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2007)

Statistics from recent years reveal that there is fair representation of different ethnic/racial groups in employment. But there is evidence of underutilization of staff, especially those who fall under ethnic/racial minority categories. Hence the board leadership should also look into the issue of underutilization and attempt to overcome this problem by creative methods of human resource utilization. The conception and usage of Workforce Analysis Toolkit (WAT) is particularly relevant in this regard.

As the SCPB marches into the 21st century, it is important to look at some of the issues deciphered by the WAT and try to remedy those issues. Chief among the problems identified by the WAT is the management of upward mobility of employees. As is well documented in state civil service literature, there are not always enough senior level positions for entry-level staff to move into. Employment in the private sector, on the other hand, is lot more attractive in this respect. Hence, the SCPB is faced with some major challenges as it enters its eight decade of existence. (US Census Bureau, 2008)

With analytic tools such as the WAT, the SCPB is technologically equipped to deal with its present problems. What is required is proper communication and coordination between the various departments in implementing the plans. With the inspirational leadership of Governor Schwarzenegger, there is room for optimism that the SCPB will overcome its challenges and set an example to civil service boards in other states.

References:

State of California Personnel Board, official website: www.spb.ca.gov on 25th May, 2010.
Bureau of Economic Analysis (March 27, 2007). “State Personal Income 2006”. Press release. http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/spi/2007/spi0307.htm.
“Population and Population Centers by State: 2000” (TXT). United States Census 2000. US Census Bureau Geography Division. May 20, 2002. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/cenpop/statecenters.txt.
“California QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau:”. US Census Bureau. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06000.html.