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June/July 2003
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June/July 2003
Diversity/Careers June/July 2003
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Diversity in action

National Weather Service is out to hire diversity
NWS is a science agency that is constantly infusing new technology into its ops. Its aim is to reflect the national civilian workforce in its diversity makeup
Warning coordination meteorologist Barbara Wilson shows President George W. Bush a Texas weather forecast during a briefing at the Silver Spring, MD, NWS HQ.
Warning coordination meteorologist Barbara Wilson shows President George W. Bush a Texas weather forecast during a briefing at the Silver Spring, MD, NWS HQ.

The National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, hydrologic and climate forecasts and warnings for the U.S., its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas. Its forecasts and other data are collected into a national database by the National Climactic Data Center (Asheville, NC, http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html) that can be accessed by other government agencies, the private sector, the public and anyone in the world.

NWS is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

John Jones, NWS deputy director, notes that meteorologists and hydrologists are in the most demand at NWS. There’s also an ongoing need for computer engineers and specialists, as well as engineers in other specialties.

Weather data is collected on and above the earth’s surface and transported to the agency’s IBM supercomputer. There, mathematical equations generate models of how atmospheric and hydrologic phenomena will behave over time.

In every forecast office, an advance weather interactive processing system summarizes and integrates the data on one screen. Based on that information plus their scientific knowledge and personal experience, forecasters try to foresee how the atmospheric phenomena are going to act.

“The NWS is a science agency that is constantly infusing new technology into its operations,” Jones declares. “Keeping up with changes in technology is our bread and butter.”

Smaller modeling programs that can run on desktop computers are also the focus of research. Current systems undergo frequent upgrades. For example, “We are constantly improving the Doppler radar system so we can better understand thunderstorms and tornadoes,” Jones says.


National Weather Service logo
National Weather Service
www.nws.noaa.gov

Headquarters: Silver Spring, MD
Employees: 4,800
Mission: Data collection and analysis for atmospheric forecasting

NWS is interested in giving students worthwhile experience. About seventy students are currently employed in various aspects of the NWS Student Education Experience Program. The current student roster is about half women, minorities and people with disabilities.

The Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) offers temporary job opportunities to current students. The Student Career Employment Program (SCEP) offers periods of work and study while attending school; SCEP students are eligible for permanent employment after they successfully complete their education and NWS employment requirements.

The Presidential Management Intern Program looks for grads with advanced degrees. “The program attracts people who like to travel,” Jones says. NWS has already hired three women PhDs through the program this year.

Having a full-time workforce that reflects the national civilian workforce is a NWS goal. The agency is already very close to that goal, and has several initiatives in place to boost its diverse hiring by 1 percent each year.

NWS also participates in NOAA’s Education Partnership Program, designed to provide financial assistance to minority-serving academic institutions to support collaborative research and training of students in areas directly related to NOAA’s mission.

John Jones, NWS deputy director: better understanding of thunderstorms and tornadoes.
John Jones, NWS deputy director: better understanding of thunderstorms and tornadoes.

The NWS is developing a national recruitment strategy to strengthen its relationships with all minority-serving institutions. It sends recruiters to as many schools as possible, because “We’ve learned that the best way to make a connection is to go face to face on campus,” Jones says.

NOAA has a diversity council, and NWS has one of its own, which works on issues specific to the weather service. NWS holds monthly meetings to discuss how to give underrepresented groups the opportunity to share their ideas with Jones and NWS EEO program manager Rufus Caruthers.

NWS employees have a union and three affiliation groups: Blacks in Government, Federally Employed Women and the Federal Asian Pacific Islanders Council.

Employees in some areas can arrange flextime schedules. A childcare center is available at Silver Spring HQ.

Jones notes that when HQ employees were concerned about safety after the September 11 terrorist attack on the nearby Pentagon, evacuation drills were instituted. Now all 800 employees can evacuate their high-rise buildings in eleven minutes.

NWS is involved in nationwide outreach projects with the American Red Cross, FEMA and other agencies. NOAA’s office of external affairs focuses on intergovernmental and constituent affairs and coordinates activities.

D/C