How COVID-19 will change teacher recruitment and retention

How COVID-19 will change teacher recruitment and retention

District leaders seeking to staff their classrooms with well-prepared permanent and substitute teachers will find a changed landscape this fall.

The teacher shortage, already reaching crisis proportions pre-COVID-19, will be even more pronounced. One distressed administrator recently confessed, “I don’t know how many of my permanent or substitute teachers will return.” With recent school closings announced across the country, substitute teachers—who are often the pipeline to permanent teaching positions—may have pivoted to jobs in other industries to make ends meet. Add to that the predicted budget shortfalls and virtual instruction unknowns, and the result is that districts will need to be more creative than ever to ensure a qualified teacher stands at the front of every classroom (or computer) when schools re-open.

Despite the fear and fluidity this coming fall will bring, there is a silver lining. While a teacher shortage exists, there isn't a talent shortage. With the right recruitment strategy, schools can attract some incredible talent, and engage them in a higher purpose: making a difference in the life of a child. Here are some things to consider so the number one factor influencing student achievement will be in place this fall: the teacher.

A shift in the workforce

In 2018, there was an estimated shortage of 112,000 teachers in the U.S., according to a 2019 CNN report. Almost every U.S. state has a shortage of teachers, and substitute teachers are increasingly being tapped to fill these permanent positions. The EdWeek Research Center recently explored this challenge by surveying 2,000 school administrators across the country in winter of 2020. What they found is that 70 percent of school administrators predicted their need for substitute teachers will increase.

But in a post-COVID-19 world, with all but a handful of states closing schools, the highly skilled substitute teaching workforce that educators so heavily rely upon may have shifted to non-instructional positions. That doesn’t surprise me. Substitute teachers come from a wide range of backgrounds. Many are accomplished in their prior careers before seeking out more meaningful work. Others are highly educated with bachelor’s and advanced degrees and can choose from a variety of employment options. It’s a combination of communication skills, depth of experience, and dedication that makes a great teacher, and in turn, a great employee.

The surge in demand for substitute teachers—people who can teach but don’t have the credentials—means we must open the door to thinking creatively about ways to recruit stellar substitutes. The issue here is that recruiting, screening, hiring, onboarding, scheduling, paying, and reporting on substitute teachers is a 24/7 job. On top of that, District Administration says that schools should expect a budget shortfall in the millions of dollars. What this tells me is that school staff, the ones who currently source and recruit substitute teachers, will already be stretched to the max and lack the resources to provide the level of creativity needed to successfully recruit the talent required to fill thousands of absences that one district alone averages in a year.

This is one major reason why outsourcing teacher recruitment to staffing experts, such as Kelly Education, makes so much sense. Partnering with an education workforce solutions company that specializes in recruitment strategies will help you find and retain the best talent.

Companies like Kelly Education offer substitute teachers the opportunity to work year-round, enticing reward and recognition programs, and access to benefits—all while becoming a valued part of the education community. Staffing companies also know how to creatively reach those who may not have ever considered teaching, but nonetheless have all the skills to excel at it.

I can tell you success story after success story about the medical trainer who became a beloved substitute teacher in Albuquerque. Or the double major in IT and finance who grew up in Philadelphia schools and now teaches math to elementary school kids in the same district. Or the retired civil servant who chose to give back to the community as a substitute teacher and is now a virtual instructor in his district. The valuable workforce skills these people have provide a new kind of role model as teacher.

Educators may be in short supply, but the yet-to-be discovered teaching talent in America is where you may least expect it. Creativity for you could be as simple as letting the experts at an education workforce solutions company use their creativity in recruiting and retaining talent, so you can focus on what you do best: ensuring students receive a quality education.

By Jennifer Carosielli, Regional Vice President, Kelly Education