Professional Development

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The Role of OST Workers During the Pandemic

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have brought many changes to the delivery strategy for school-day and out-of-school time (OST) programs.

Recently, researchers from the National Institute on Out-of-School Time at Wellesley College spoke with 21 participants in the NIOST National Afterschool Matters Fellowship and the Minnesota NorthStar Youth Worker Fellowship.

The conversations focused on the participants' experiences during the pandemic as they continued to serve their program children and families. According to NIOST, interviewees represented a wide array of organizations including national youth-serving organizations, local government departments, libraries, faith-based ministries, organizations serving homeless youth, and other private youth-serving organizations.

Those interviewed explained there's a lot of uncertainty about the future to navigate, in addition to figuring out how to successfully serve youth virtually while maintaining the important aspect of relationship building.

The conversations also demonstrated how traditional strengths found in the OST workforce—flexibility, creativity, a focus on social and emotional learning—positioned OST workers to provide youth with needed stability and support.

There are some challenges ahead that are predictable, such as the need for personal protective equipment and staff training, but many are worried about the ramifications of youth isolation and the impact the pandemic will have on existing disparities. Yet many of those interviewed remain optimistic about the creative ways OST workers are innovating and shifting their strategies.

NIOST's article states, "Now is the time to make sure that OST programs and people—and the possibilities they create for children, youth, and families—are understood to be an important priority and necessary investment."

Read the article in its entirety by visiting National Institute on Out-of-School Time.

The NIOST interviews are part of one of the Readiness Projects, a collaborative effort specifically focused on learning more about professionals in the youth-serving fields, including afterschool, through enacting a national survey. The 2021 Youth Fields Workforce Survey will provide reliable information for policy, practice, and research efforts to understand, strengthen, and support the youth fields workforce. Contact YFSurvey@air.org to learn more.

Courtesy of NAA.

Photo courtesy of Allison Shelley for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.