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Three Barriers Preventing a Thriving Workforce

Monday, 16 May 2022 07:37

The afterschool field is dealing with a workforce crisis that includes major challenges with recruiting and retaining direct service staff. Although these challenges need to be addressed in the short-term to ensure young people have uninterrupted access to quality afterschool programs, longer-term we must move past these immediate challenges and answer the question:

What is it going to take to design and achieve job quality for afterschool professionals and move toward a stable and thriving workforce?

Our workforce issues have never been only about increased self-care, innovative recruitment strategies, and more PD. Those things are important, but they will not by themselves solve the problem.

We’ve identified three long-term barriers that are holding us back from realizing a thriving workforce.

1. The challenge starts with our field having Fixed and Deficit Based Mindset - Our field is full of innovations and creative folks. Yet we continue to operate the way we always have. We seem to have more money than ever before, but that has not changed the perception of the profession and the way we use our funding.

Where does our mindset need to change for us to create a thriving workforce?

2. Perception of our profession and professionals - The people of our workforce are skilled. Let’s stop reinforcing the idea that they aren’t.  We talk about more degree programs and professional development that will “professionalize” the field. Those are fine preparation and on-going opportunities, but people who are already doing the work shouldn’t be asked to do more to prove that they are professionals.

How can we change (or create) a positive perception of our profession–one that’s deserving of recognition and job quality–without putting the burden on the workers?

3. And finally, funding and along with that, budgeting. -  We need to acknowledge the cost of quality and advocate for funding that covers all the things that it takes to operate high quality programs, including the items for the workforce identified in the framework we worked on this morning.

As we advocate for dollars to serve more kids - let’s include what it really costs to provide kids with the high-quality services they deserve.

And, with the funding, let’s consider how we are setting budgets.

How are we allocating the money to support quality jobs and hence quality programs?

So, how do we move past immediate challenges and work to answer the question initially proposed?

All afterschool stakeholders must work, not as problem solvers, but as opportunity finders and look for opportunities to create systems that move us toward a thriving workforce.

NAA is committed to you and to all OST professionals who make a difference in the lives of young people, you are the #heartofafterschool and we look forward to working with you to create a strong and valued profession.

Contributed by Heidi Ham, Chief Operating Officer, National AfterSchool Association