State of the Public Sector Workforce

Strong communities require a strong and supported public workforce. TJCOG has launched a Public Workforce Initiative to assist local governments across the region as they continue to face unprecedented challenges to recruit, retain, and support the wellbeing of their workforce. 

Through focus groups with regional managers and human resources staff, and a regional survey of supervisory-level staff, four goals have emerged for the program:

  1. better data
  2. an increased candidate pool
  3. improved employee wellbeing
  4. stronger public awareness & marketing of career opportunities

Details about specific projects and ways to get engaged with the initiative will be shared throughout the next year. 

Engaging with the 2022 Regional Summit

Session: A Look at Wellbeing in the Public Sector
Speaker: Michael Hogan, Economics & Policy Analyst, RTI - Mr. Hogan is an economics and policy analyst at RTI. His work focuses on making quantitative and qualitative data accessible and understandable to policymakers and decision makers. He has expertise in public and proprietary economic data, survey data collection, quantitative research, and impact modeling.

In 2022, the public sector faces accelerated challenges of recruiting and retaining skilled workers across the United States. Research cites stress, burnout, burdening bureaucracy, low wages, accelerated retirements, and public distrust as driving high rates of vacancy in public sector and local government positions. TJCOG has partnered with RTI International to conduct a survey of 300+ public sector managers in our region to get a foundational understanding of the impact of the state of the workforce on our local government organizations. Attendees will get a first look at the results of this effort.

Trends in the Data
  • Wages are a driving factor
  • Staff are working beyond their normal hours and responsibilities
  • Most local governments have not scaled back services due to limited capacity
  • It is more difficult to recruit
  • Concern that staff are not highly valued by constituents and elected officials
  • Public Safety continues to face unique challenges

50% of managers cite lack of professional development and 48% cite burnout as a primary reason that employees leave

Full Presentation


Session 2: Developing Healthy Workplaces
Speaker: Ruby Brown-Herring, CEO, RBH Wellness Solutions, LLC - Ruby Brown-Herring is a National Trainer and mental health programming consultant. She has over 20 years of experience in program management, adult and higher education, and is the former Mental Health First Aid Coordinator for North Carolina where she implemented and coordinated NC's plan for reducing stigma using the Mental Health First Aid Curriculum. She is recognized as a leader in community mental health education, as evidenced by the work she has done to increase statewide mental health literacy.

This interactive workshop is designed to offer tools and strategies that can be brought back and implemented within organizations and teams. With all the changes and challenges highlighted by the pandemic and other natural disasters, there has been an increased sense of urgency to create emotionally healthy workplaces that are able to not only manage change, but also thrive during life transitions. 

Emotion Activator Poll Results

Behavior Change Poll Results

Full Presentation


Session 3: Asylum in the Archives

Since 2017, UNC's Community Histories Workshop has been committed to a long-term, open-ended initiative to use archival records to illuminate the historical experience of mental illness and the emergence of modern psychiatry in the American South. It has "reconstructed" Dorothea Dix Hospital from its founding in 1856 into the 1920s through digitizing and transcribing more than 7,000 original admissions records, creating the first patient database for a nineteenth-century American insane asylum. The direction of the initiative since 2021 has been informed by the American Psychiatric Association's public acknowledgement of a legacy of institutional racism, reaching back to the establishment of public asylums and the field of psychiatry itself in the mid-1800s. Thus, the long history of mental illness and mental health treatment in North Carolina cannot be understood except in the context of race. Since March 2021, the CHW has worked to identify, access, and recover admission records for the North Carolina Insane Asylum for the Colored in Goldsboro, which was renamed Cherry Hospital in 1959. From its establishment in 1880 until its desegregation in the 1960s, it was the state's only public psychiatric institution for African Americans. In July 2022, nearly 7,000 records were digitized. 

Speakers: Now in his 44th year at UNC, Robert Allen is Co-Director of the Community Histories Workshop and Principal Investigator for the Asylum in the Archives Initiative. He also led the CHW's public history initiatives around the adaptive reuse of the Loray Mill in Gastonia, and Rocky Mount Mills in Rocky Mount. 

Dr. Philip Feibusch has a long-standing interest in the history of medicine and previously volunteered at the Mutter Museum at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. He has published research on addiction medicine and analytical organic chemistry, and is pursuing the first historically-focused resident track in psychiatry at UNC. He is co-PI for "A Retrospective Review of the Historic Records of the North Carolina Asylum for the Insane and Eastern North Carolina Insane Asylum: Quantifying the Diagnosis of Dementia Praecox in the Early 20th Century" (in progress). 

A 2022 BA graduate in History and Anthropology, Abby Wooten is one of three recent UNC graduates selected to serve as a Chancellor's Fellow for 2022-2023. In that capacity, she is working with UNC's Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward, and helping to plan the Universities Studying Slavery Conference, scheduled for March 2023. She began working with the CHW in her sophomore year as a work-study student, transcribing Dix Hospital admissions ledgers and general case books. She continued her work as a research fellow for the rest of her undergraduate career, transcribing more than 1,000 records. 

Full Presentation