Professional Development

NAA publishes fresh, new content every week covering a wide variety of topics related to the field of aftershool. In addition, NAA offers a variety of opportunities for virtual professional development (PD) through meaningful content, conversations and connections. Click here to see full descriptions of virtual PD offerings.

Questions About Workforce Shortages? Your Staff May Have the Answers!

Wednesday, 22 February 2023 10:50

Workforce shortages continue to change the landscape of the youth development field. Out-of-school time teams may not only struggle to maintain their staff-to-youth ratios sustainably, but they may also find that staff shortages may impact program quality and enrollment. We understand the problem, but who has the answers?

One might turn to peers or human resources professionals when seeking these answers. While this is a great start, consulting with other experts - including current staff - is very informative.

In 2022, the San Francisco Beacon Initiative’s (SFBI) network faced unprecedented recruitment and retention challenges. When tasked with addressing these challenges, SFBI’s workforce development team knew that to find out more about job quality, the sustainability of the field, and possible solutions to our network’s recruitment and retention challenges, we needed to go straight to the source: our direct service staff.

Through surveys distributed in May 2022, we found:

  • 64% of our staff are in the transitional aged youth (TAY, ages 18-24) group
  • 69% of our team have been in their role for a year or less
  • 33% of our team are former program participants

We also asked the following questions to understand our network’s needs better:

  • What do staff look for in their workplace?
  • What keeps them working at their Beacon sites?
  • Why do their colleagues leave the youth work field?

Through focus groups, we found that staff:

  • Seek room to grow and clear pathways to the next step in their career
  • Stay at their current site because of the family-like atmosphere and team culture of loyalty and transparency
  • Believe their colleagues leave their roles for better-paying opportunities outside the field

We concluded that the staff value a sense of community and want to connect more deeply with their organization. They consider pay, trust, transparent communication, and a professional investment equally important when considering a future career at their site and in the youth work field. With this knowledge, our team seeks additional funding for recruitment and retention, including hourly pay rates, merit increases, and referral bonuses. In addition, professional development and technical assistance resources, providing specific training pathways for new staff and staff who have expressed interest in preparing for the next step in their career, are now more of a priority.

As we continue to work toward the sustainability of the youth development workforce, we must remember to not only value staff for their service to young people, but also include their voices in decisions that affect their longevity in the field. No one person has the answers to creating a thriving workforce. All of us–including direct service staff–can work toward solutions to ensure a viable future for our profession.


Contributed by AJ Frigiliana, 2019 Next Gen Honoree, Workforce Development Manager with the San Francisco Beacon Initiative