The economic fallout precipitated by the COVID-19 crisis and stay at home orders resulted in frontline out-of-school time (OST) staff being among the first workers laid off or furloughed. Additionally, the rapid response mounted by community-based organizations to address the immediate food, housing, childcare, and healthcare needs of their communities put frontline OST workers in the perilous position of risking their health and potentially infecting their families. Composed overwhelmingly of low-income, young people of color who are often representative of the communities served, these layoffs exposed issues of racial and socioeconomic inequity and exacerbated the economic instability low-income communities faced prior to the pandemic.
Yet, the core of quality OST is built on the relationships and experiences that youth workers cultivate with their participants.
Burnout and turnover among the OST workforce are well-recognized challenges for the field, as well as low wages and limited hours. Although it is not yet known how many programs will be operational, nor how many OST workers will return to the field in a post-Covid-19 economy, this could upend investments made in infrastructure and quality service delivery will be disruptive and potentially catastrophic.
As funders consider re-entry for vulnerable youth workers, there is an opportunity to consider how to strengthen and fortify the OST workforce--including rebuilding a field that offers family-sustaining wages and viable career pathways.
- The historical precarity of the OST workforce and how it affects program quality, service delivery, and participants
- How to best deploy funder dollars to re-cast and stabilize the OST sector
- Opportunities to strengthen the OST workforce as part of the economic recovery of low-income communities
- Viable career pathways for youth workers within the OST sector, as well as on-ramps to other fields that can be intentional and offered at scale.
- Bianca Baldridge, Assistant Professor - Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin – Madison
- Sabrina Evans-Ellis, Executive Director, Youth Development Institute
- Saskia Traill, President & CEO, ExpandED Schools
- Claudia DeMegret (Moderator), Senior Program Officer, Learning & Enrichment, The Wallace Foundation