Like its public-sector counterparts – such as the local school system and other local government agencies – Alamance Community College is also struggling to find people to work, ACC officials told the community college’s trustees during their latest meeting.
The budget passed by the General Assembly late last year set aside more than $20 million in state funding over the next two years to help the state’s 58 community colleges recruit and retain faculty for hard-to-fill and “hard-to-retain” positions – meaning part- and full-time teaching jobs in continuing education and curriculum programs that go unfilled, sometimes months on end, even after multiple job listings, according to the North Carolina Community Colleges System.
ACC’s share of the faculty recruitment and retention allocation from the state is estimated at $145,983 and $207,681 for the current and upcoming fiscal years, respectively, based on a February 2022 report to the State Board of Community Colleges (SBCC). The “State Allocation for Faculty Recruitment and Retention” is designated for providing bonuses and pay raises for faculty positions with high turnover.
“Even though we have some people who’ve resigned [or retired], we steadily rehire; we are able to recruit and retain others. [Our staffing levels remain] almost the same from month to month, but it’s relative to what’s going on with the great resignation.” – ACC human resources director Valerie Fearrington
At ACC, the state allocation will primarily be targeted to teaching positions in math, dental assisting, and automotive technology, which are part of the “Tier 1A and 1B” programs eligible for the funds, the college’s human resources director Valerie Fearrington told the trustees.
“When we look at what’s happening nationally, 4.65 million people quit their jobs in April, are we doing better than that?” ACC president Dr. Algie Gatewood asked during a brief discussion about the state allocation for recruitment and retention.
“Yes,” Fearrington responded, “we’re doing a whole lot better than that. Even though we have some people who’ve resigned [or retired], we steadily rehire; we are able to recruit and retain others. [Our staffing levels remain] almost the same from month to month, but it’s relative to what’s going on with the great resignation.”
The so-called “great resignation” refers to a mass exodus of workers from the job market: More than 47 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021, producing worker shortages in every sector of the economy, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Harvard Business Review reported earlier this year. Approximately 63 percent of workers who left a job in 2021 cited low pay and lack of opportunities for advancement as their reasons for quitting; and 57 percent of workers who quit their jobs in 2021 said they had done so because they felt disrespected at work, Pew Research Center reported in March 2022.
“Is there a disproportionate amount of staff leaving, versus instructors?” ACC trustee Pete Glidewell asked Fearrington.
ACC’s turnover rate for non-instructional staff is less than that for instructors, Fearrington said, adding that she hasn’t compared the number of faculty resignations to staff resignations.
As of the end of April, ACC had a total of 229 employees, or about the same number as a year ago, based on a workforce analysis that Fearrington provided to the trustees. Between January 2021 and April 2022, 25 employees resigned, 13 retired, and six ACC employees were dismissed, according to Fearrington’s workforce analysis.
Of the 25 resignations, 18 ACC employees told the college’s administration that they were leaving to take better-paying jobs, while the remainder said they were leaving for other personal reasons, such as family relocation, based on Fearrington’s analysis.
“I have heard this so many times before, but where do we recruit people?” asked trustee chairman Dr. Roslyn Crisp.
“We have been going to job fairs in and outside of the county, but we try to focus in the area where we serve,” Fearrington explained. “We sign up with the unemployment [the state Division of Employment Security] website; we go to all the universities.” ACC is also looking to work with academic sororities and fraternities and faith-based organizations to help recruit people for jobs at the college, Fearrington added.
Trustee Cynthia Winters asked Fearrington whether ACC graduates receive any priority in trying to fill vacant positions.
“They are our number one recruitment efforts,” the HR director explained. “We encourage them to apply to our positions.” Some students have landed jobs while enrolled as students at ACC, starting as part-time employees with the federal Work-Study program (which helps offset costs for tuition, books, and fees, Fearrington told the trustees, and then moving into permanent jobs after completing their studies.