What employers should learn from NECC’s professional development plan for teachers

Posted December 22, 2017 by


The New England Center for Children (NECC) invests in their employees’ education and overall professional development as a retention strategy. We spoke with Kait Maloney, Recruiting Specialist at NECC, who shared about their professional development plan for teachers, how it is important to them and how that retains their entry-level talent.

Given a talent shortage, reimbursed professional development goes a long way

In the last 10 years, public awareness of autism and other verbal and behavioral disorders has grown drastically. However, the amount of certified teachers is not keeping up with the global need. At NECC there are two on-site professional development programs for employees to earn their Master’s, one through Simmons College and the other through Western New England University. Maloney points out that one of the programs has been around for over 20 years. Since both of the programs are part-time, they only require one or two classes a semester.

Maloney understands how much school debt teachers already have. “We do not want to add onto that.” For employees to take advantage of the opportunity to further their education, the cost barrier should be low. The teachers at NECC only pay two hundred dollars per class; NECC covers everything else. Convenience for the teachers is a priority, so the classes also work around their schedules. Similarly, for employees who choose the option of becoming a graduate assistant, NECC covers 100 percent of books, tuition, health insurance, dental, and housing. There is also a general tuition reimbursement for those who come to the program but find out they are more interested in nursing or adaptive physical education. Maloney explains, “If that’s their long term goal, we want to help them work towards that.”

Professional development programs help retain employees

Professional development program for teachersIn the field of special needs education, new employees soon realize the difficulty of the work they are about to be doing. This tends to turn some people away, but then only those ready for the challenge stick around. This leads to a much higher retention rate.

Employees who go through the program and then don’t stay with their employer aren’t necessarily leaving because of the quality of the program or the organization. People often participate in part-time programs in their gap year to gain experience, or just out of pure curiosity. Information taught in these professional development programs can be applied in other fields, and employers should cross promote the different roles available in their organization. For example, at NECC, if someone in the program is going to become a nurse afterwards, they will likely end up working with a patient who is non-verbal or has behavioral issues. So “even if the employees are not retained, they continue to spread what the programs teach,” Maloney makes clear.

Customize professional development programs to the unique needs of each employee

NECC has a department dedicated to the professional development of their teachers. Even if your organization doesn’t have a team specifically dedicated to professional development and learning, you can still orient a program to fit specific needs.

A long orientation with lots of training is critical. At NECC, Maloney describes how teachers are paired up in order to comfortably transition into the environment. This team approach provides  individuals a safety net while becoming familiar with the basics of the field.

Related: Onboarding best practices, from pre-boarding to the bottom line

A larger team setting is another great way to work on very team specific skills as well as learning to communicate effectively. People should always be encouraged to ask questions. It’s likely if one person needs clarification, others do as well.

Not only does the team approach improve the quality of the program, but quarterly refreshers, weekly team meetings, and open communication are extremely valuable. When working alongside many different individuals, communication and understanding are incredibly important.

Internal opportunities help create an engaging environment. Job fairs, instructional programs, partner programs, and other home-based services encourage involvement and increase retention.

It is crucial to retention that enough incentives are provided. When employees are engaged, everyone is happier. Maloney says a big incentive they provide their staff at NECC is vacation time. “Our teachers typically start off with five weeks,” Maloney details.

Related: Work engagement: Millennial expectations of inclusion and concrete tips for managers

Professional development programs prepare employees for demanding work

One common challenge among entry-level employees is that they are coming right from college, some never having worked a demanding job before. It can be difficult to help them understand that it is not always going to be a walk in the park. Maloney encourages her staff to “look at things half full rather than half empty.” It also helps to make sure they know all of their benefits with your company. Often, entry-level employees don’t yet know how important benefits are. Great benefits usually make up for a less than desired.

Professional development programs lead to a change in the work environment

Development programs help to increase organization and communication among employees. They also help create a more open and reliable work environment. Whether that is open lines of communication with the administration, annual surveys, or staff appreciation. The culture of a workplace is crucial to the success of the company.

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