JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – For the first time in more than a decade, the Missouri Department of Transportation is gaining staff instead of losing it.

Within the last month, through a new strategy of hiring events, MoDOT has hired 100 new people. At one point, the state’s transportation department was short 1,000 employees.

“We were digging a hole that keeps getting deeper,” said Patrick McKenna, director for the Missouri Department of Transportation. “The first thing we had to do was stop digging, and I feel like we’ve done that.”

For the first time in years, things are looking up for MoDOT. Within the last four months, McKenna says MoDOT has had more people joining than leaving. That hasn’t been the case often over the last few decades.

McKenna says MoDOT was dealing with a 20 percent turnover rate at one point and tasked by the board that governs the department to stop the bleed.

“I brought our team in and said, ‘On a very short period of time, I want to take 10 weeks down to one,'” said McKenna. “I want people on the payroll in one week.”

He says the team tried it out last month at hiring events in Kansas City, St. Louis and in Jefferson City. Instead of waiting, resource agencies provided screenings that day, allowing managers to offer jobs on site.

“What we did is say we’re going to put people on the payroll while we’re still doing our screenings and put them through our safety training,” said McKenna. “It’s made all the difference in the world. The challenge now is how do we sustain this and build on that.”

McKenna also credits the 8.7% pay raise from the Missouri General Assembly earlier as part of the solution.

“I’m not suggesting we have to compete with the private sector, but we have to be able to compete in the public sector space, and we really weren’t doing that,” said McKenna. “We were going a bad job of that, in fact we were 30 and 40 percent below that level.”

While the department is still short 600 workers, MoDOT is feeling relief for the first time in years.

“We’re still way down in labor hours and that is going to effect our service, but to have that good shot in the arm the way we did this and the way we did it quickly was nice,” said McKenna.

Mckenna says MoDOT is also still down hundreds of seasonal workers for the upcoming winter months. As for the fast-track hiring events, MoDOT is still reviewing what changes they can make going forward, but they do plan on holding more in the future.