Halfway through the current school year, new data confirms that staffing shortages continue to plague the U.S. education system. In fact, more than 60% of public K-12 educators say they are considering leaving teaching, according to a recent report from the Horace Mann Educators Corporation.
Some of the largest gaps exist among specialty and clinical school staffing. 65% of U.S. public schools reported being understaffed in special education at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Moreover, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be approximately 37,000 specialist job openings each year through 2031.
Since in-house solutions are scarce, district administrators are partnering with third-party organizations, particularly staffing firms, to find qualified school professionals to meet their students’ needs. For the school and the professional, it’s often a win-win. Both benefit from the expertise and support these partners and their teams provide – and in ways that often surprise schools and school professionals.
“Wins” for school districts and their leaders
Driving adaptability and speed
In a time when schools are facing critical shortages, staffing partners can fill positions quickly by tapping into a much larger talent pool. They will also have a larger team supporting recruiting efforts. This allows them to have someone on the bench when a need arises, whether there’s a sudden vacancy, or for planned vacancies like parental leave. Having immediate help is beneficial to ensure compliance with government regulations, as well as to ensure the workload does not fall on the rest of the school’s staff.
Staffing partners can also offer a variety of placement types and lengths to fit the school’s exact needs. Short-term contracts give schools an opportunity to see how a person works in that role – a “working interview” so to speak.
Saving time and resources on hiring
Many school districts have small HR departments that are likely scrambling to fill multiple and a wide variety of positions. However, by partnering with a staffing firm, schools benefit from outreach and outsourcing technologies that expand on existing recruitment strategies and employ an arsenal of engagement tactics. The staffing partner manages the recruiting process, and it hires and pays the talent. At Soliant, we view our contract associates as an extension of our team, but we also make sure they fit into the school’s team.
Developing innovative solutions from industry expertise
Not only do staffing partners have decades of experience in general recruiting, but they often have extensive knowledge within their industries of focus, such as education or healthcare. In education alone, Soliant, works with over 50 disciplines. Many are in highly specialized areas – such as speech language pathologists or school psychologists – and some cross over from other disciplines. In fact, Soliant started in healthcare and became involved in education by placing healthcare positions in education environments. Now our providers have clinical and education experience, and we have candidate pools we can draw upon to help with both areas. Even if a school district has very specific needs – such as a bilingual speech pathologist or a child that needs individualized care and monitoring – we can identify candidates to fill them.
With this industry knowledge and the wide array of communication technologies now available to us, some staffing partners are offering non-traditional solutions like tele-practioners. If a school needs a position filled immediately – but there are no staff available locally and relocation would take too long – there is now an option to bring in a practitioner to work with students remotely. They can meet one-on-one and face-to-face just as if they were in the same room. Plus, any school district that chooses this option with Soliant benefits from our technical and clinical experts, who oversee the IT set-up and functioning.
Guaranteeing the right fit
Perhaps the best benefit of all: Soliant will make sure to fill vacancies quickly and with the best candidate to avoid gaps in staff coverage.
“Wins” for school professionals
Receiving a customized approach
A good staffing partner does more than just fill positions – they find the best fit for great candidates. When working with a candidate, we identify the environment and benefits that are important to them and their career. Then we find them a placement based on those preferences. Custom benefits help meet the specific needs of school professionals in a way that is comparable to other full-time positions, which makes them more likely to stay longer.
At Soliant, this approach allows us to provide a full-time opportunity for specialized roles that otherwise would not exist. For example, a school psychologist that just wants to do assessments, in most scenarios, could probably only work per diem. However, we can create a steady, full-time job for them to do assessments across the state. Any candidate who comes to us can narrow their focus as much or as little as they want, and they will end up in a role that meets their exact needs.
Gaining greater flexibility and work-life balance
Many teachers and school professionals struggle with inflexible caseloads that require high demands and long, rigid hours. The draw of contracting for many educators is the ability to decide the number of hours that suit their lifestyle while focusing on their core responsibilities.
Contracting can also provide greater flexibility. For one, school professionals can travel the country on different assignments or to try out different scenarios before they settle in one place. They can work a semester at a particular school or district to understand the environment, department, caseload and community. Then they can try another one to compare – with the goal of finding their dream job and staying there.
For even more flexibility, school professionals can work fully remote through tele-practice if acceptable within state and district guidelines.
Tapping into industry and market expertise
Soliant has a pulse on industry trends and current workforce needs, which helps us to find new opportunities to offer candidates. We see ourselves as consultants to school professionals, and we make sure they know what’s available to them in terms of roles, salary, benefits and perks. Then we can match them with a placement that is mutually beneficial to them and the school.
In addition, our involvement in the education field for over 20 years comes with the know-how to find opportunities before they are made public. We are able to expedite the interview process by scheduling candidates as soon as the role is available, as well as giving the school a pre-recommendation of the candidate.
Accessing career advancement opportunities
Also, part of a staffing partner’s role as consultants, is to make sure that professionals they work with have opportunities for growth – whether that means encouraging them to look at roles they may not have previously considered or helping them obtain new certifications or skill sets. If they want to further their career, their individual consultants can help them do that. As a result, the candidate may be even more valuable to the school where they are placed.
Proactive measures to mitigate staffing shortages
The education workforce shortage is a widespread and enduring issue, and school districts need to take steps to mitigate it before they hit critically low staffing levels. Working with a staffing partner like Soliant may be an unfamiliar approach for some school districts, but one that could have exponential returns in terms of educational value and support for educational staff. We have the knowledge and resources to quickly step in and help get specialty professionals in the door who are qualified and set up for success, which, in turn, sets the school district on the path to success.
To learn more about how Soliant can help schools and education professionals, visit soliant.com/school-healthcare-jobs.
Tim Starling is an executive vice president at Soliant, overseeing all its education divisions, goals and financials for almost 20 years.