Last month my fellow bloggers asked, "How can we reinforce the belief that youth work is a career and not just a pipeline for other professions?" The answer is complex. But one key is money, and perhaps in the current economic climate, this question is the elephant in the room: Is professional development or advancement in the field worth the investment without adequate compensation?
My opinion is that it isn't. Passion and commitment to youth motivate youth workers to enter the field. However, to retain them, there is a clear need for increased compensation commensurate with advances in training, education, and job title. Otherwise, for many, it's just not worth it to stay.
First, the good news: some have found creative ways to meet this need.
- Vermont offers professional recognition bonuses for achieving certificates, credentials, and degrees.
- The After School Corporation in New York, in addition to offering academic support and assisting with finding scholarships, paid stipends to those completing certificate programs on several CUNY campuses.
- The Missouri Afterschool Network is currently working with the Department of Higher Education to develop a career lattice and salary recommendations. People are also sharing ideas and resources more than ever.
- The Next Gen community initiated the Career Pathways group that convenes quarterly phone calls to provide updates. (Please post a comment below if you'd like to join!).
And, the bad: it has been difficult to sustain compensation and incentive programs as funding sources dry up. For example, those piloting and adopting the TEACH scholarship program, touted as a promising model for school-age professional development, are still reeling from its recent decimation. Pennsylvania responded by looking into grants such as Race to the Top funding and by building collaborations with other agencies.
Professional development and compensation both help sustain a profession, and we need both, lest we be regarded as a pipeline to other careers. So, please post your comments, whether you have news to brighten our day or are looking to commiserate
Does your state have any innovative compensation or incentive programs in place or in the works? What other strategies can we provide for keeping youth workers motivated and on a career pathway?
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