Education Week, Oct. 3, 2001

Evidence is accumulating that the slowdown in the economy, especially in the high-tech sector, is substantially increasing the number of people interested in becoming teachers or school computer network administrators. School job openings that previously attracted few qualified candidates have received two or three times as many well-trained people this fall, school district human resource (HR) directors say.

The turnaround is most evident in areas such as Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia, which led the nation’s surge in tech-related employment in the 1990s.

The stability and good benefits of education positions are very attractive to applicants who are disappointed by layoffs in the high-tech sector, say school HR directors.

HR departments are coming up with innovative ways of reaching out to recently downsized dot-commers. In some areas, such as Austin, Texas, school recruiters contacted computer maker Dell immediately after reading that Dell was laying off 1,000 workers. The district and Dell were able to coordinate placement efforts so that the district filled six network administrator positions within a week.

Here are a few ways schools can get the most out of this new crop of candidates:

– Offer substitute teacher positions to people with advanced technical skills.

– Encourage new teachers who have been hired from the high-tech world to take teacher education courses so they can learn how best to use their technology training in the classroom over the next few years.

– Provide competitive salaries so employees will remain in the schools once the economy regains strength.

– Offer professional development as a way to enhance worker contentment.

– Foster communication between employees and their higher-ups, which also enhances contentment.