Staffing afterschool programs was a challenge before the pandemic. The same issues continue to impact the system as the world begins its return to normal. What are those issues? For employees: low pay, little flexibility, and burnout. For employers: an inability to find staff, which leads to decisions such as lowering qualifications and raising salaries to compete with other industries like food service and retail.
Short staffing affects not only program directors and employees, but also the children in the program. As personnel come and go, homework assistance and other elements of afterschool care become inconsistent. This means programs can have difficulty meeting mission goals of improving test scores and emotional well-being.
What can administrators do to deal with staffing challenges? Here are some tips.
Reach Out to Other Organizations
Engage with current staff and partners to find potential candidates and skilled workers. Send an email to organizations with access to a talent pipeline, like:
- High schools
- Community colleges
- Career offices
- Faith-based groups
- Parks and recreation offices
Each of these organizations can reach people who desire to work with children or are looking for employment opportunities. Many high schools partner with community colleges and offer child development classes, and students may welcome the opportunity to practice what they learn in a real-world setting.
Ask each organization to post an employment announcement in their newsletter or make it part of a radio announcement. Consider making an appearance at a career fair. School districts can advertise afterschool jobs, and local staffing agencies can help you fill the gaps.
Post job listings on your website and social media platforms, and consider implementing a referral program. Offer a gift card or financial award for anyone referring a person who becomes an employee who stays at least 90 days. Alternatively, consider offering a hiring bonus to anyone you hire who remains with your program for a specific time.
Speak to Alumni and Families
Use your email list of families whose children aged out of your program or graduated. Ask them to spread the word about your program to others in the neighborhood or at work. So many parents look for quality programs and find it difficult to connect. If someone they know recommends you, you will likely gain a new client.
NextDoor is a community social media application that allows users to narrow their reach to specific neighborhoods within a city. Post job listings and market on this and other social media platforms.
Post ads on job sites, local media outlets, or run a brief broadcast announcement on local public radio. Ask former clients for testimonials to use in your marketing content.
Reduce Turnover Among Staff
While you are competing against other industries for workers, you can take steps to improve retention and reduce turnover.
Ask your current staff for feedback on working with your program and invite them to propose initiatives and incentives that could keep people from leaving. Ask for exit interviews or surveys from those who left and learn from their answers. Are there internal practices you can change?
Analyze the data you receive and find achievable and affordable ways to improve working conditions.
Begin or Expand Certificate Programs for Childcare and Afterschool Care
Speak with local community colleges and other educational institutions about offering a certification program specifically for childcare workers. Workforce development is often a goal of such schools, which offer two-year associate degrees and a variety of certifications in other industries.
Why not pitch a certification for childcare workers that shows employers and parents that the employee has some educational attainment to help you increase the quality of your program and provide a potential career track for employees?
In the meantime, analyze the educational requirements you specified for incoming employees. Can you hire people with different academic attainment levels and then offer some form of assistance to pursue or complete a degree? Such an incentive brings you candidates already interested in childcare and afterschool programming.
Reduce the Workload Through Automation
Many programs haven't kept up with technology due to cost or availability. Afterschool and childcare management solutions provide cost and labor savings by automating repetitive administrative tasks and redundant data entry work.
Do you still use paper rosters for attendance? Do you transfer data to create invoices? How long does it take to schedule your workers for a week or month? A software solution can help take care of all of these tasks and save you time.
If you operate multiple afterschool programs in different locations, you can associate one staff member with multiple locations and link staff members to the sessions they conduct. Managing and scheduling staff becomes a snap. Record and track their attendance for payroll purposes and compute the hours worked for each employee.
Link partners and providers to your program and grant funding opportunities, then keep track of program funding and subsidized student payments. Calculate the hours providers and partners spend engaging with your program and ensure they receive appropriate compensation.
You may need to produce reports for various agencies as a childcare operation. An afterschool solution can generate multiple staff and provider reports as well as specific items such as the Federal 21APR staffing report.
Store all data in a database accessed by various applications without worrying about updating multiple files. The software notifies you when records need updating and can send reminders to parents and partners for immunization records and other documentation updates.
Most industries struggle with staffing, and competition is fierce for employees at the lower end of the wage scale.
Use outreach to partners, families, and program alums to spread the word that you are hiring. Ask yourself whether workers need the credentials you asked for pre-pandemic and offer educational assistance and a career pathway for employees.
Tap into high schools for part-time workers who might also be taking child development classes or need a schedule that doesn't require late nights.
Leverage afterschool program management software to automate administrative tasks and streamline data management. Hopefully these tips will help you find and keep qualified staffing in your location.