Home Somerset county NJ Afterschool Programs Still Can’t Hire Enough People

NJ Afterschool Programs Still Can’t Hire Enough People

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Waiting lists, staff burnout, worker shortages — after-school programs in the Garden State are no strangers to labor issues that have plagued the economy for much of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a survey conducted in New Jersey and elsewhere for the Alliance after school, more than 50% of after-school program providers report being extremely concerned about staffing or staffing shortages. More than 80% fear they won’t have the ability to maintain staff in the event of health problems, and many are forced to increase costs for parents to keep things running.

“We had a mass exodus of staff that just wasn’t coming back,” Diane Genco, executive director of the New Jersey School-Age Care Coalition, said of the onset of the COVID-19 emergency in 2020.

To be employed by an after-school program, which provides learning and physical programming for children after the last bell of school, one must pass a rigorous background check and training hours – all for a part-time job, Genco said. Safety issues surrounding schools and daycares also work against the industry, she said.

“I think people are still very anxious about working with kids because of COVID,” Genco said. “They prefer to deliver Amazon packages from their car, and it pays better.”

Most after-school providers in New Jersey derive their revenue directly from tuition paid by parents, Genco noted. Thus, if providers choose to increase staff salaries, the additional expenses will likely be borne by parents.

In the Afterschool Alliance survey, which was conducted between Nov. 1 and Dec. 13, 71% of programs said they had taken steps to attract and/or retain staff. The most common action was to raise wages. Providers have also increased opportunities for professional development, offered free childcare, instituted signing bonuses, or offered additional paid time off.

More than 50% of suppliers reported having waiting lists, compared to 37% last spring.

“These new findings are sobering, especially since we know that omicron has increased staffing issues since this survey was conducted,” said Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance. “While many programs report using federal COVID relief funds to support staff recruitment and retention, these funds are likely to end long before the after-school staffing crisis.”

Genco said employee bonuses through federal relief funds — $1,000 to stay employed, for example — incentivize individuals to join the ranks after school. Individuals also exhaust their unemployment benefits.

“It’s been helpful, but we still don’t have the manpower we need,” Genco said. “Labour – it’s a revolving door.”

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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