By Sam Piha
Being a youth worker is a very difficult job. They face a variety of challenges and dilemmas, as they work with a diverse group of young people. We collected a number of questions from youth workers and promised to engage experts and field leaders for their answers. Below are some of the questions we received and the answers that we sought out from field leaders, content experts and innovative practitioners. If you want to submit your own question, click here.
This blog is part 2 of our Q&A series. You can review part 1. Stay tuned as we continue to explore questions from youth workers. (Note: we know that there are many answers to any question. Below, we offer some well-thought-out answers that we received. Because schools and agencies may have specific policies, we recommend that youth workers share their questions with their immediate supervisor. At the bottom we provide a brief bio about the respondent.)
Q: Staffing is a HUGE issue for my program. I spent all this year down 2 staff members, and it looks like will be down 3 staff to start back in the fall. My organization offers low pay, low hours, and absolutely no perks (training, paying for school, free child care, etc). I also live in a rural area, and our community college serves older students who have families to feed and can't possibly work for such low pay. With these issues in mind, how do we not only attract talented staff but also retain them? - Youth Worker, serving youth 5-11, Nevada County, CA
A: "Staffing is always an issue, especially in rural areas. Here are a few ideas:
- Conduct asset mapping of your local community. Do you have other youth serving organizations (local 4-H program, Boys & Girls Club in the area, Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts)? Would chefs of local restaurants come out and demonstrate cooking techniques? Is there a youth pastor who would like to provide additional hours supporting your students?
- Do you have a Volunteer Organization that matches volunteers with different organizations?
- Do you have a local Arts Council that supports local artists and encourages getting more youth to appreciate and learn more about the arts? Oftentimes, different artists engage youth in hands-on learning experiences.
- Determine if any of your parents (if they qualify) are interested in working in the program. Maybe they would be willing to do a modified shift (M/W/F) or (T/Th).
- Do you have retired teachers living nearby who would be willing to do one or two days/week? The pay usually isn’t an issue. Sometimes they just love being back with kids and sharing something they love (cooking, science projects, music, their heritage, travel, etc.).
- Ask your teachers to offer an additional hour of support for the academic component/enrichment component and pay them a stipend.
- If you have a nearby Community College reach out to them to make presentations in their classes to access students who might be considering a teacher pathway, or are interested in child care, health and physical activity/fitness, dance/drama/ theater arts, computer science, liberal arts, etc. Provide them documentation/certification that may help them further their education or can be included in their portfolio when seeking a job in the future.
- Do you have a local high school nearby (hopefully, within walking distance) that high school students (Jr/Sr) could serve as Student Liaisons? They actually like the pay they receive since they oftentimes still live with their parents. They can’t be left alone with students but it sure helps! Consider giving them some type of written documentation that they might use to document their work when trying to get into a community college or four-year college/university if they decide to pursue becoming a teacher or other trade/profession.
- Do you have people from different cultures who live in your community who would be willing to come and present on their culture/heritage/or specific interests?
- Do you have people from different careers/professions who live in your community who could share how they got into their profession?
- Where do you post job openings? Consider the Community College, LinkedIn, EdJoin, social media, etc."
- Gloria Halley, Region 2 Lead for Butte County Office of Education