Voices From The Field: Zakir Mckenzie Parpia on Job Quality in the OST Field

How we think about job quality can directly impact staff retention and workforce development. To explore the idea of job quality and what it means for our field, we interviewed folks from across the country. Next in our series is Zakir McKenzie Parpia, Director of Programs with NAA’s State Affiliate, California School-Age Consortium.

Q:  How do you define job quality, specifically in OST, and why is it important?

First and foremost, all educational workforces need to receive an actual livable wage and compensation for the time it takes to do all of the planning, communications, administrative and other duties required, including professional learning and leadership development. A workforce cannot deliver high-quality services when juggling multiple jobs, lacking benefits, and without compensation for responsibilities outside of contact time. Educators at all levels need payment and other incentives to continue their learning to remain connected to what it feels like to be a student and stay fresh for their young learners.

Parpia: “Job quality for OST professionals is critically important because we’re a crucial part of young people’s educational journeys and leave imprints on their lives. In OST, this happens uniquely for not only young people but also for their families. When led by skilled professionals, OST programs engage young people in ways that foster a love of learning and a sense of belonging and community. Young people and their families find immense benefits from OST programs and so much is dependent on the workforce’s capacity.”

Q: What can be done (by policymakers and grantmakers, by organizational leaders, by advocates, by individual professionals) to increase job quality?

Parpia: “Leaders in and around the field can increase job quality for OST professionals by investing resources at all levels, with an eye for sustainability. Policy and grantmakers can incentivize higher education institutions to work with OST providers to develop pathways for gaining credentials, certificates, and degrees in youth development. Organizational leaders can prioritize engaging, “theory to practice” style staff development and foster a culture of continuous learning and consciousness-raising. Also, organizational leaders can foster a culture of advocacy where professionals and equipped and encouraged to talk with legislators, policymakers and others,  offering ideas that meet their needs. Finally, we can all do more to build relationships between school day and OST educators. Policymakers, grantmakers and organizational leaders can all play a part in facilitating and fostering more collaboration.”

We need to think about investing in the OST workforce at all levels as a field. Right now is the time. We have the opportunity to shape a better future for our field, to recognize and reward OST professionals with the job quality they deserve.

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