Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Afterschool Worker Shortage: Voices from the Field

by Sam Piha

We thought it is important to understand the issue of worker shortages from afterschool practitioners. To accomplish this, we issued a “snap” field survey in which we received 44 responses from practitioners across the country in 12 hours. Below we share some of the responses from our “snap” survey as well as from a survey from the East Bay Asian Youth Center (representing a collective of 13 lead agencies providing afterschool programs to a total of 76 OUSD schools.


What are the reasons for the worker shortage? 

I believe many of the people that worked for us before the 2020-21 school year went on to find other work. I also believe that some have enrolled in college and some no longer are able to live in the area due to being priced out of the housing market.” – School District Coordinator, California

1. Competitive hiring market with higher pay than pre-pandemic. 2. Not all youth are vaccinated and fear of contracting or passing Covid. 3. High cost of Bay Area living and relocation of workers. 4. Work from home job options more prevalent. 5. Stimulus checks led to savings for some and not needing to immediately return to the workforce. 6. Secured alternate work with higher wages instead of returning to the afterschool field.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California

After school programs generally do not pay well, and we're dealing with a major inflation. Also, I think fear of exposure to COVID plays a large part, too. Working with a large number of mostly unvaccinated people, even if they're kids, is scary sometimes.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California

Low wages, part-time work (only), no benefits; perception of lack of career path (rather, just a part time, temp job on the way to something more permanent. People staying home to take care of own kids.” – Afterschool Provider CEO, Pennsylvania

There are a variety of stressors that bring about this shortage: loss of work hours, loss of loved ones and family members, mental exhaustion, and lack of adequate health care and better wages.”- Afterschool Provider CEO, Florida

We had trouble finding qualified staff who were also fully vaccinated.” – Afterschool Program Staff, Ohio

How has your program been impacted by the worker shortage?

Programs have had to limit youth attendees in some programs, sometimes programs have had to cancel a day or so due to lack of substitute staff, and less activities are offered in some sites due to lack of instructors.” – Afterschool Evaluator and Consultant, California

We are serving less students than we have spaces for. The staff is overwhelmed, and the program quality has decreased.”- Afterschool Program Director, California

Depending on the site location, we are at 50%-75% of capacity to serve youth after school. Fewer students are being served which jeopardizes our local/state/federal grant awards.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California

The current staff shortage has prevented our 13 programs from fully enrolling our ASES funded sites. We are at about 50% capacity at this time. It is very distressing to not be able to serve the maximum number of families.” – School District Coordinator, California

We’ve had substantial turnover at our site coordinator level, and front-line staff is more of a revolving door than before.” – Afterschool Program Director, Michigan

Our enrollment is low because we only have 2-3 staff per site (as opposed to 5-6).” – Afterschool Program Director, Utah

What are some things that the field can do to address the impacts of a worker shortage? 

I believe we were better positioned than many organizations to hire because we budgeted for a higher wage than many other youth programs. I think increasing wages and explaining the necessity of that to funders so that they can support the organizations they fund in that increase. Afterschool and youth development work also need to be seen as a viable career path with professional training and education.” – Afterschool Program Director, Ohio

Hire high school students who are 18+ to work at elementary sites, provide university credit for field service hours, increase pay rates.” – Afterschool Program Director, Michigan

Formal pipelines for after school to educators. Schools facing the same concerns. Increasing wages is tough - in our area, California’s Afterschool Education and Safety (ASES) program will not cover the full cost of the program nor will parents be able to afford the true cost of program.” – Afterschool Provider, California

Beyond livable wages? Benefits that compensate for the low pay such as full-time employment, fully paid medical and dental, free childcare, reimbursed college tuition, access to robust mental health coverage.” – Afterschool Program Director, California

We need more money. We are criminally underpaid and overworked.” – Afterschool Program Coordinator, California

Any suggestions on how we can improve the worker shortage at the policy/systems level? 

Could give credit for high school students that work in afterschool programs under an elective or community service requirement.” – Afterschool Evaluator and Consultant, California

Funders and contracting organizations like Starting Point and Say Yes could set a $15 minimum wage for afterschool program work and fund programs accordingly. Local colleges could offer Youth Development degrees/certifications and place students in afterschool programs for field experience.” – Afterschool Program Director, Ohio

Encourage funders to raise grant amounts to get to living wages. Create full time jobs. Consider hybrid work schedules if appropriate. Paid training and prep-time.” - Afterschool Provider CEO, Pennsylvania

The California Department of Education has to truly make it a pathway to education careers and the Unions should let LEAs and CBOs hire combined positions, so both the school and the afterschool program are fully staffed, because offering more hours attracts more staff. Higher compensation.”- Afterschool Program Director, California

Bring back funding to invest in and manage workforce development by building a formal pipeline between high school to community colleges and state universities, including the UC system and tap into the resources of private universities.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California

Loan forgiveness or tuition credits as many part time afterschool workers are in school. Regional or statewide benefits packages as the cost to smaller orgs is tremendous but better benefits could entice workers to stay in or take these jobs. Ensure the jobs are pipelines to full time opportunities and careers.” – Afterschool Program Staff, California


What program strategies are being implemented to hire staff?:

  • 92% Use of “Indeed”
  • 85% Recruitment through Colleges & Universities
  • 85% Recruitment through Personal Network
  • 77% Recruitment through Professional Network
  • 77% Increase Hourly Wage
  • 62% Recruitment through social media (Facebook, Etc.)
  • 54% Referral Bonus
  • 31% Idealist
  • 23% Paid Recruiter
  • 15% Sign-on Bonus
  • 23% Other 

Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation will be conducting a webinar featuring a presentation by Stu Semigran and his team from the EduCare Foundation on Heartset® for Self-Care and Resiliency on Wednesday, February 23, 2022 from 10:00am - 11:30am (PST). To learn more and register, click HERE.

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