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Solving the Workforce Puzzle: The OST Profession and Job Quality

Sunday, 29 January 2023 09:19

As the professional membership organization for those who work with or for youth in OST, NAA is moving forward, defining the components of our profession’s identity as a knowledgeable and skilled workforce providing essential services and opportunities. In addition, we’re promoting workforce advocacy through our Thriving OST Workforce Initiative.

NAA and the OST profession have the following to define the identity of those who work and for young people in OST:

  • The Code of Ethics outlines the core principles and beliefs that guide OST professionals’ conduct in daily work and when ethical dilemmas occur.
  • The Core Knowledge Skills and Competencies (CKSCs) and Self-Reflection Tools outline what professionals who work with and for youth in OST need to know and show. The CKSCs describe the dispositions, knowledge, skills, and competencies individuals need to provide quality OST programs that support the development of young people and advance equity.
  • The Proclamation on Profession is a promise to the OST profession and acknowledgment that the work of OST professionals matters.

These items that help define the identity of OST professions also set the foundation for creating a thriving OST workforce.

The Quality Connection

Data and experience show that quality OST programs staffed with knowledgeable and skilled professionals result in positive youth outcomes. Investments in OST continue to grow; however, access to programs remains an issue. Challenges with staff recruitment and retention create program waiting lists and leave young people without program access, a long-standing problem. Without workforce stability, programs can’t provide youth with the unique experiences and support they need–and deserve–outside the school day.

Fortunately, this is a solvable puzzle. Investments in job quality can stabilize the workforce.

What is Job Quality?

There is no single definition of job quality; overall, job quality depends on factors such as pay, benefits, schedule, working environment, agency, respect, and other components all humans value. Similar to OST programs, jobs can be at various levels of quality. Based on job quality indicators, afterschool positions generally fall lower on the quality spectrum. When addressing recruitment and retention challenges, the focus tends to be on pay. While higher wages will help solve the recruitment and retention issue (as OST workers need to make thriving wages and have good benefits), job quality is much more than that.

Designing Quality Jobs

Quality jobs need intentional design. In doing this work, we relied upon the Job Design Framework from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. This framework ensures that we design high-quality, equitable employment opportunities and provide the necessary tools to develop and sustain the workforce. Those in OST often discuss preparing youth as the workforce of tomorrow. We shouldn’t tout this as a benefit of OST without taking care of our own first. We should be just as concerned about building our afterschool workforce for today and beyond.

The Big Picture

Creating a thriving OST workforce prioritizes job quality, which makes our workforce stable and enables afterschool professionals to deliver high-quality programs that lead to positive youth outcomes. Our goal is to empower organizations–with the support of policymakers, funders, systems-builders, and others–to design OST jobs with equity and inclusion and inspire a culture where employees, and subsequently young people, thrive. Putting the pieces of a quality job together ensures that the workplace has a culture of strong relationships, respect, and belonging 

OST professionals make quality afterschool programs happen, and they deserve job quality commensurate with their contributions and impact. To ensure access to quality afterschool programs-–or afterschool programs at all—NAA, through its Thriving OST Workforce Initiative, asserts that job quality for OST professionals must be a focal point.

Call to action

It starts with you. Take the Pledge to the Profession and receive the Pledge Action Guide. Act now to show your support in taking the necessary steps to create quality jobs, ensuring that we build a strong, valued profession - a thriving workforce - that benefits kids, families, and communities.

Contributed by Angelica Portillo and featured in the Fall 2022 edition of AfterSchool Today.