Have Plenty of Options
So, teachers are ready, willing, and able to serve small businesses. Is there a catch?
Well, there is a teacher shortage, and the U.S. Department of Education predicts that it will reach crisis proportions with an expected increase in students, and when teachers born during the baby boom start to retire and there aren’t enough young teachers around to replace them. Every bright communicator-negotiator-manager that an entrepreneur entices away from a school is one less educator teaching America’s children.
That’s a dilemma for Ben Klasky a former Teach for America Corps member, Mr. Klasky taught at an inner-city school in Louisiana for two years. Now, he is hiring employees for his company.
Mr. Klasky speaks highly of the passion teachers bring to their work and the maturity their experiences give them. “I obviously need to get good people and to get team players,” he says. But emotionally and ethically, “I would have a less hard time hiring somebody from a competitor,” Mr. Klasky says, “than recruiting from a school because the need is so great.”
He even discourages publicizing the attractiveness of teachers to corporate employers: “I would hate for somebody to get the picture that teachers are great people and then all of a sudden have it be even harder” for schools to hire teachers, he says.
Educators May Benefit
But is his attitude fair to teachers? Long term, competition for their services increases their value and will force their pay — and their status — up, say current and former educators. Those are the real keys to attracting and retaining teachers. And that, ultimately, could be very good for American schools, though in the meantime an accelerated exodus no doubt would be painful, say the educators.
Horizon Software System’s Karen Larson doesn’t feel guilty for luring teachers away from schools. “I’m a firm believer in public education,” she says. “I sent my children to public schools. But the way we pay teachers is a travesty. And then we don’t even give them control over their work. They’re going to leave anyway.”
Poor Customer Relations
Dan James, vice president of business development at Carolina Biological Supply Co. in Burlington, N.C., a company that produces science materials for classrooms, says his company doesn’t directly recruit in the schools. He points out that there are competitive and ethical reasons for education-related businesses not to recruit teachers. “Our market is the schools,” Mr. James says. “You’re recruiting your own customer and that doesn’t make you a good vendor. We appreciate how hard it is for schools to get people.”
That’s not to say former teachers don’t work at the company. “A lot of teachers just come to us,” Mr. James says.
Entrepreneurs must decide for themselves whether recruiting teachers is corporate carpet-bagging — or a belated recognition of teacher skills that ultimately strengthens the profession. But for those businesses that do decide they covet teachers, legions of passive job seekers are out there. Says Annie Huggins of Horizon, “I have not [conducted] a single training session where a teacher doesn’t come up to me and say, ‘So what did you do to get this job?’ ‘Who did you talk to?’ And when they hear it was really easy, they’re amazed. I can read it in them: They want out, but they don’t know how to do it.”