JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — It’s no secret that there are job openings in several industries across the U.S. School districts aren’t exempt from the nationwide shortage of workers, but the Northwest School District in Jefferson County has a creative solution to help.
The district is now hiring its own high school students to fill open jobs in the district.
“Some of the positions have been short-staffed since last year,” said Kim Hawk, the district’s chief operating officer. “We just have struggled to find any help at all, and if you drive around and look at the help-wanted signs everywhere, you know the competition is stiff. So, we knew we had to come up with some other plan.”
The district held a job fair last week to fill several positions from cooks to maintenance and after-school childcare.
“We have kids that are very capable and able to hold good jobs in this community and other places of employment, so to reflect on that and say why wouldn’t we use those resources within our own facilities,” Dr. Desi Kirchhofer, Superintendent of the Northwest School District.
Twenty-five students applied for jobs. They are currently in the onboarding process, which includes fingerprinting. The district said the pay is in the minimum wage range, but the hours are a big perk.
“If they worked at fast-food restaurants, they work long nights, evenings, weekends, holidays,” said Mark Catalana, the district’s chief human resources officer.
He said the jobs at the districts wouldn’t include late nights, weekends, or holidays, making it beneficial for students. The district said working in education, means education will always come first and they will be flexible for students, who are also their employees.
“We’re going to actually hire more students than we have positions for, so we have the flexibility for the students’ schedules,” Hawk said. “If they have a big test coming up, we have the flexibility for their schedules because their grades and being a student is their first priority.”
The district is also offering transportation for the student-employees from their home school to another school if that’s where their job is located.
The district said they have received phone calls from other districts on how the plan is going and to get ideas. The district said it would encourage other districts to do this as well.