Hiring to Reflect the Community You Serve: How to Overcome Employment Barriers

The traditional hiring practices in a civil service system are flawed and contain numerous barriers to employing a workforce that is reflective of the citizens we serve. In an effort to combat this imperfect system, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation used a project-based approach to flip the narrative in recruiting and hiring entry-level recreation leaders. The new system consists of a predetermined timeline, targeted recruitment, community-based information sessions, and a total rethinking of the civil service exam and how it is scored. The changes resulted in our most diverse civil service list to date. This speed session will quickly walk participants through the process, to show other agencies how they can implement a similar process to ensure a representative workforce.

Learning Objectives
Following this session, learners will be able to:

  1. Identify common barriers applicants encounter when applying for a civil service position.

NRPA Education online learning content is accessible for 180 days from the date of your registration. The learning content is available for registration for one year from the date of origination.

Kathryn Ott Lovell


Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Kathryn Ott Lovell was appointed commissioner of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation by Mayor Jim Kenney in January 2016. In this position, Kathryn oversees 700 full-time employees, more than 2,700 part-time and seasonal employees, over 10,200 acres of land, 500 buildings, 166 miles of trail, 250 playgrounds, and thousands of programs and events throughout Philadelphia's parks and recreation system.
In 2017, Kathryn commissioned the first strategic plan for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation. The plan, Our Path to 2020, established a renewed vision for the department and set in motion a powerful trajectory toward an equitable and exceptional parks and recreation system that connects people to each other, to enriching experiences, and to the natural world. The plan emphasizes citizen-centric service; high quality, relevant, and accessible programs; and a commitment to well-maintained assets.

Kathryn has presented widely on topics ranging from urban forestry, to climate change, to why parks are crucial to our future. Notable speaking and panel appearances include the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW), National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Conference, the City Parks Alliance’s Greater & Greener Conference, and the One Water Summit. In 2018, Kathryn served as the 2018 NRPA Robert W. Crawford Lecturer.

Currently, Kathryn serves on the Board of Directors for the Please Touch Museum, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Parkway Council, Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Sports Congress. 

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