Human Resources still working hard

The Chinook School Division is using a new recruitment tool to find suitable candidates for teaching and other positions.

Superintendent of Human Resources Ken Garinger provided details about recruitment and other human resources issues during a regular Chinook School Division board meeting, April 14.

The meeting took place through an online video conference due to the requirements for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Garinger discussed the details of the report with the Prairie Post during a telephone interview on April 17.

the school division has started to post positions for both teachers and support staff on the Apply to Education job application website during the current school year.

“We're the first school division in Saskatchewan to make use of this system,” he said. “Most of the provinces use Apply to Education extensively. I think they say about 80 per cent of all teachers in the country are looking to Apply to Education for job possibilities. We saw that as an opportunity to recruit some of those more challenging positions especially, so French immersion teachers and practical and applied arts teachers and teaching positions that are just more challenging to fill.”

He felt the use of this platform has been a real benefit for the school division to get jobs advertised. One of the advantages is that positions posted to the Apply to Education network can be found through the popular Indeed job search engine.

“We're now connecting with far more teachers in the country and we're also connecting with far more people using Indeed as a tool for checking on jobs and finding jobs,” he said. “So I believe that's been a bit of a gamechanger for us.”

The school division previously used two other platforms for recruitment purposes, but they did not have the same reach and functionality as Apply to Education.

“This now allows somebody, if they applied to another school division, wherever it might be, to also apply to Chinook with a few clicks of a button,” he explained. “So it's very user friendly and it's been a very positive process. We're also now using the same system for all of our support staff, and that has been outstanding in terms of what we're seeing with the numbers of people who are applying for positions within the Chinook School Division from the support staff perspective. So it's been a very positive change that we brought forward this year.”

Personnel from Chinook School Division attended career fairs at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina to share information with over 100 students. This year the school division also attended Medicine Hat College to meet with 32 prospective teachers in that education program, which is offered in collaboration with Mount Royal University.

“We've had a number of them who were interested in positions in Chinook as a result,” he said. “In fact, I was able to meet with some of them one-on-one, which was a great opportunity. So that was something in terms of the recruitment piece that we haven't done in the past.”

The uncertainty created by the current COVID-19 pandemic does not mean the school division’s recruitment efforts will come to a halt.

“We base our staffing on future projections, and so we are going to continue,” he said. “The reality is we have to base it on something and to continue to ensure there are people in place for the start of the school year, whenever that is.”

The pandemic situation means any in-person meetings will be avoided and interview processes will take place through teleconferencing and video conferencing.

“We're very fortunate here in terms of the technology that we've been able to use to continue with our processes and yet keep people socially distant and allowing people to continue to do their jobs from a remote location,” he noted. “I appreciate the resiliency of all folks who are working for us and our families in Chinook as we ensure people can continue to do their jobs effectively.”

The Human Resources department welcomed 23 new teachers to the school division for the 2019-20 school year, which was a larger group than usual.

“We probably average between 12 and 18,” he said. “So this was a bigger group, for sure. Some of them were temporary and some of the positions were permanent or continuing. The year before I think we had about five or six. … We had some teacher retirements, but we also had a spike in some of our leaves. It just happened to be that we had more need this past year.”

Human Resources supported the new teachers through an induction and mentorship program, and it is looking at expanding the induction program to a second year in response to feedback.

“When you have an induction program and a mentorship program like this, it really is about creating a cohort of people who learn from one another and share ideas,” he said. “So it really came from the teachers themselves to say it would be great if they could be getting together again and share ideas and continue to develop and grow as teachers. It's something very positive in Chinook that people see the supports provided to our first-year teachers are so valuable and they don't want it to end after year one. So it will be something that we'll try to implement for next year.”

The cost of personnel, both salary and benefits, represents about 78 per cent of the school division’s annual budget. The school division does not have a lot of flexibility to change this percentage.

“What it says in the end is that we are in the people business, and when that's the case it means that you can't make too many changes without impacting people and that's where the challenge comes in,” Garinger mentioned. “The goal is not to impact classes and classrooms, and so it creates other challenges. We have to be creative in terms of trying to find dollars and cents to be able to continue to support students in classrooms.”

Teacher positions are currently over formula by 8.24 full-time equivalent (FTE). This is down in comparison to the previous year, when that number was 14.47 FTE, but it means the school division is still overstaffed by government standards.

“We've been able to reduce just through the process of attrition and get closer to what our staffing formula says,” he said. “We'll continue to try to move towards a balance, but the key piece is we also need to make sure we're looking after our students and their needs. This is a formula, and 8.24 over may be where we need to be. That could be part of it too, just because of the needs that we have, but we will continue to try and find ways to support students and reduce cost where we can.”

The Chinook School Division currently employs 953 contracted staff (883.40 FTE), consisting of 439 (406.54 FTE) full-time and part-time in-scope teachers and 514 (476.86 FTE) support staff. The school division will usually employ an additional 495 non-contracted staff, consisting of 196 substitutes and 299 casuals.

The COVID-19 pandemic means the school division is currently not providing employment to the non-contracted staff.

“There's no replacement opportunity for our substitute teachers and our casuals right now,” he said. “So that's one of the unfortunate realities of this pandemic. We haven't had the need for substitute teachers or casual support staff to support where necessary.”

According to Garinger the school division’s goal is to avoid any layoff of contracted staff as a result of the pandemic situation.

“We've been able to continue to pay people and have them in a work from home situation,” he said. “So we are making this work and certainly continuing to provide quality education to our students. It's not the same certainly as being in classrooms and being in schools, but I know our staff are working to provide quality learning opportunities and support staff are helping with that.”

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