Staffing shortages across the United States from healthcare to the airline industry have made headlines over the past few months. In fact, 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in December, according to the Labor Department’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover report. Unfortunately, afterschool programs are no exception to this latest trend.
According to a new survey by the Afterschool Alliance, afterschool programs and providers say staffing is the most pressing challenge they’re currently facing.
The survey, conducted by Edge Research between November 1 and December 13, 2021, states the top two concerns among the 1,043 afterschool providers surveyed are finding staff to hire/staffing shortages and maintaining staff levels through health concerns and safety protocols. Eighty-seven percent of respondents say they are concerned about this, and more than half—51 percent—say that they are extremely concerned. These numbers are up 20 percentage points from a similar survey conducted in the spring of 2021.
“Combatting staff burnout is a priority for us,” one of the survey respondents said. “We are doing as much as we can to be supportive, both financially and by providing emotional support for staff. Keeping full-time staff engaged and encouraged has been a challenge. Keeping good part-time staff engaged and focused has proven even more difficult.”
Many of the providers surveyed connect the staffing challenges to their inability to serve more students, additional staff stress and burnout, and concerns about program costs. For instance, the survey found that 54 percent of programs that are physically open say that they have a waitlist, an increase from 37 percent in the spring 2021 survey. In addition, among respondents who report an increase in program costs, 83 percent say that staffing costs contributed to their program’s higher weekly cost-per-child.
To address the staffing issues, 71 percent of respondents report that their program has undertaken at least one course of action to attract and retain staff:
- 53 percent are increasing salaries
- 32 percent are providing additional professional development opportunities
- 18 percent are offering free childcare for staff
- 15 percent are offering sign-on bonuses
- 10 percent are offering more paid time off
- 5 percent are offering increased benefits
On the plus side, COVID relief dollars are able to help program providers address their current issues with staffing. Among respondents who report that their program received new funding for fall 2021 programming, 47 percent say the new funding helped support staff recruitment efforts.
The Afterschool Alliance has also developed a staff recruitment toolkit to help providers recruit staff for afterschool programs.
Photo credit: Photographer Webber J. Charles, Breakthrough Miami