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It’s a Big Job! Administrators’ Reflections on Hiring Practices in Adult Education

It’s a Big Job! Administrators’ Reflections on Hiring Practices in Adult Education

Administrators in adult education have a lot to juggle these days. With a pandemic still going on, a renewed job market and many new lessons learned about service delivery over the past two years, what are the unique concerns facing program leadership? The ATLAS Administrator PD Advisory Team – made up of managers, consortium leads and coordinators from different program types across the state – has been leading conversations and organizing trainings since last fall for administrators to share new ideas and talk about what’s working.

At the Statewide Virtual Conference on April 22, Administrator PD Advisory Team members Erin Cary and Tammy Schatz led a workshop discussion called It’s a Big Job: Rethinking Hiring Practices in Adult Education. Tammy and Erin shared the following questions with the administrators who attended. The responses below came directly from workshop participants, in their own words or captured as notes.

1. What’s hard about hiring and retaining staff right now?

  • No or not enough qualified candidates applying (this answer came from MANY participants)
  • Lack of clear job description differentiating adult educators from other district positions
  • Mismatch between applicants’ skills and program needs (especially for online/HyFlex teaching)
  • Finding teachers for evening hours
  • Hiring support staff due to district requirements for college minimum
  • Not being able to offer full-time positions with benefits
  • Need to train hires who are new to ABE
  • Disconnect between interview performance and what we see in classroom practice
  • Managers do not check in with each other when interviewing for positions; if people are not a good fit for ABE, it helps to let others know in a professional way
  • Difficulty recruiting a diverse pool of candidates

2. Where are you finding new staff?

  • Former service learners from the college, VISTAs and volunteers
  • Former staff and applicants, recent retirees
  • District substitutes
  • EdPost, Indeed
  • Word of mouth
  • Social media
  • District website
  • Local colleges

3. Where are your site’s job postings available (besides your program/district’s website)?

  • MN Council of Nonprofits Job Board
  • Hamline TESOL Community Facebook Group
  • Social media
  • For summer teachers, send the posting to district email list of K-12 teachers

4. Which positions are the most challenging to fill and why?

  • ELL teachers (especially in the evening, part-time and online)
  • Teachers for specific content classes (math, job training)
  • Support staff (especially bilingual or with an in-demand L1)
  • GED classes (small class numbers are discouraging to instructors)
  • Classroom assistants (hard to find hires who perform well)

Challenges with filling these roles:

    • Districts requiring K-12 licensure for adult ed positions
    • Meeting students’ varied needs for class times and delivery models leads to a lack of traditional teaching schedule and complicated job requirements

5. What is your program doing to make positions more accessible and attractive to a diverse pool of candidates?

  • Direct outreach to community organizations that we have a relationship with
  • Try to hire current or former students as support staff and program assistants (because we have the biggest flexibility in hiring for these roles)
  • Have good relationships with K-12 colleagues and educate them on our programming so we’re always on their minds
  • Helping new hire teacher get Tier One licensure
  • Continue non-discriminatory hiring practices as we always have

6. What are the components of your hiring process?

  • Teaching demonstration or lesson submission as part of the second interview
  • Candidates job shadow a current teacher to assess whether the role will be a good match
  • Include students as part of the hiring process, including interviews

7. How do you support and celebrate your staff?

  • Always ask about what they need as we talk
  • I act as their on-call sub if needed
  • Treats to recognize birthdays and holidays (Tammy famously brings homemade monster cookies! Recipe included below.)
  • Story to celebrate them in the newsletter or on the website
  • I regularly bring chocolate into the center!
  • Shout-outs from superintendent – or other staff!
  • Sit with them in their struggle
  • I send out a lot of snail mail cards
  • Recognize employment anniversaries
  • When we celebrate student success, make note of teacher effort, too!

8. For future trainings: what specific topics related to hiring and onboarding would you like more support around?

  • Coaching employees (especially if they don’t start out strong in the program)
  • New ways to help us promote job openings (using the power of Literacy MN, MNABE, ATLAS, etc.)
  • Extend MDE/Coursera offerings to PD staff
  • Support staff can gain valuable tech skills that can elevate service and build confidence
  • Opportunities for us to come together as administrators to share best practices

Additional resources

These suggestions will inform upcoming planning by the Administrator PD Advisory Team for future workshops, the next webinar series, and additional trainings and study circles. There’s no substitute for hearing our colleagues’ good ideas firsthand – and probably stealing a few to use at our own sites!

We hope to hold a follow-up discussion on employee onboarding practices sometime soon. Look for updates on Administrator/Manager PD options on the ATLAS website, under Key Activities: https://atlasabe.org/key-activities/administrators-managers/

Finally, in this participant folder you will find the slide deck for the “It’s a Big Job” session at the April 22 virtual conference.

Tammy Schatz’s (ABE Manager in Moorhead) Monster Cookie recipe for celebrating staff!

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 c. butter
  • 2 c. peanut butter
  • 9 c. oatmeal
  • 2 c. chocolate chips
  • 2 c. M&Ms (plain)

Mix in the order given. Drop by ice cream scoop on greased cookie sheet and flatten with a fork, about 6 to a sheet.  Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Erin Cary, UMD CILIA-T Research Coordinator & ELL Instructor University of MN Duluth
Tammy Schatz, Moorhead ABE Manager Moorhead ABE