Public Schools Branch breaks with tradition to try to fill 400 casual positions on P.E.I.

·3 min read
The Public Schools Branch has approximately 400 casual positions available, ranging from school bus drivers to custodians to substitute teachers.  (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC news - image credit)
The Public Schools Branch has approximately 400 casual positions available, ranging from school bus drivers to custodians to substitute teachers. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC news - image credit)

Officials with P.E.I.'s Public Schools Branch say traditional methods of recruitment aren't sufficient anymore — and this summer, they're trying a new approach to help attract candidates for the upcoming school year.

Kelly Drummond, director of human resources with the PSB, said there are about 400 casual positions that need to be filled: approximately 50 bus drivers and custodians, at least 100 youth service workers and educational support workers, and at least 250 substitute teachers who are available daily.

Drummond said in the past, newspaper ads and online job postings would result in a lineup of applicants, but that's no longer the case.

She said labour shortages across most sectors have forced employers to get creative.

"It absolutely is impacting us," said Drummond. "Recruitment has really changed and so the typical ways that we would have recruited in the past no longer work for us."

'We have to reach out and tap on shoulders'

This year, the Public Schools Branch is hosting a series of in-person job fairs, and advertising their vacant positions more widely.

They've also launched a short TikTok video that features a local comedian — all to get the attention of potential applicants.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

"We have to reach out and tap shoulders," said Drummond.

"We want to attract even people who are working in other areas. And so how do we do that? We have to really kind of connect with them where they are," she said.

"So, for example, our TikTok video that we just launched, we know we have a big population that we would like to attract that are on TikTok. They're no longer on Facebook. So we have to change our traditional ways."

She said normally, the goal is to have a complement of 10 per cent of their permanent, full-time teaching staff, in available substitute teachers. But this year, with ongoing uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, they'd like to have closer to 12 to 13 per cent.

Courtesy: TikTok
Courtesy: TikTok

"We're probably halfway there," said Drummond. "And that's typical for this time in the month. By the end of the month, we would hope that we'll be at least at the 10 per cent mark. And with some initiatives coming up, with some job fairs and some really active recruitment in social media, we hope that we'll meet our targets before the start of school."

Changes to substitute teacher requirements 

Also new this year: a regulatory change that lessens the education requirement for anyone wishing to work as a non-certified substitute teacher.

Potential candidates now need only one year of post-secondary education, as opposed to two years. Drummond said this will help bring in a wider variety of candidates, who may not have a lot of formal education, but have skills and experience obtained through work and volunteering.

"Our standards are still very high, and we vet that through the interview process," said Drummond. "But what it does allow us to do is interview more people. We're able to cast that net broader. So I think it's extremely beneficial for us."

She said candidates can expect their application to be acknowledged in 24 to 48 hours, and interviews are scheduled within a week. It's all part of making sure candidates feel valued.

"It's a lot of work on this end, but it's very exciting because as soon as people express an interest, we want to make sure that we get them through our doors and talk about what we have to offer," said Drummond.

"And I think that's a change, too, right? Because interviews were typically … people came in and really had to sell themselves and they still do. But it's equally as important for us to sell ourselves to our applicants to say: this is why you should come work for us."