Professional Development

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Voices from the Field: Ben Trentelman on Job Quality in the OST Field

Monday, 24 January 2022 13:22

Considering job quality can directly impact staff retention and workforce development. To explore the idea of job quality and what it means for our field, we interviewed folks from across the country. Next in our series is Ben Trentelman, Executive Director with NAA's State Affiliate, Utah Afterschool Network.

Q: Why is job quality important for those in our profession? How does it impact kids and families enrolled in OST programs?

Trentelman: “One of the things that I love about working in the afterschool field is learning that the practices we utilize in serving youth translate into how we interact with adults. We all have many of the same needs in finding our success. Similar to creating a quality program for youth, a quality work environment is important because we are building relationships, creating a common understanding and aligned vision through regular and clear communication. A quality program will be the byproduct of a quality work environment, and many of the skills an afterschool staff teaches youth should first be modeled in how the program is run.”

Q: What can be done (by policymakers and grantmakers, by organizational leaders, by advocates, by individual professionals) to increase job quality?

Trentelman: “We can create quality program environments for kids, but we run into issues in supporting the quality of life for our employees. Compensation is a significant barrier that often leads to high turnover in the field. The higher and faster the rate of turnover, the less time we have to implement best practices in programs. We need to retain employees longer without compromising program quality or access to programs through increased fees. In creating support for access to OST programs, we must encourage policymakers to consider the bigger picture by subsidizing access for families while considering the overall sustainability of the program. In the past two years, we've seen that OST programs enable our workforce to continue to work, even in the direst of circumstances. OST professionals provide an essential public service that keeps things churning. We must support these professionals in a way that respects the value that they provide.”

It is crucial to consider the intersection of job quality and program quality and what programs can do to increase both. Right now is the time. We have the opportunity to shape a better future for our field, to recognize and reward OST professionals with the job quality they deserve.