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IT teams have now been elevated to a strategic role, charged with driving multiple digital transformation initiatives across their districts

4 ways to tackle IT workforce shortages

IT teams have now been elevated to a strategic role, charged with driving multiple digital transformation initiatives across their districts

The Great Resignation. The War for Talent. The K-12 Staffing Crisis.

Whatever you call it, K-12 school districts have a retention problem and it’s not unique to teaching staff – superintendents, principals, nurses, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, and others are departing in droves.

Between the pandemic’s disruption on student learning, overloaded schedules, and increased workloads, staff are burned out, frustrated, and leaving for enterprise roles or retiring.

Already tasked with managing a plethora of networks, devices, and applications critical to the mission of learning, IT teams have now been elevated to a strategic role, charged with driving multiple digital transformation initiatives across their districts – often with little increase in team capacity.

These challenges are not unique to K-12, which means IT leaders are in high demand in the job market. As a result, IT retention grows more challenging every year and can impact district innovation if unaddressed. Recent studies found IT workers have the lowest intent to stay in their jobs compared to all corporate functions and 7 in 10 digital leaders say their company is unable to keep pace with change due to worker shortages.

But IT teams don’t need to throw in the towel – here are four ways leveraging professional and managed technology services and/or partnering with experienced managed service providers (MSP) can mitigate challenges, reduce burnout, and improve retention:

1. A Reprieve for IT Teams

The sheer number of systems, devices, data, compliance, networks, etc., that education IT teams oversee is staggering. IT workloads were already increasing before COVID-19, but the pandemic accelerated 1:1 initiatives, leading to an explosion in connected devices needing support, networks needing optimization to handle the surge in connectivity, and systems needing protection from increasing cyberattacks. The result? Stressed and overburdened technology teams with too much on their plates and forced to ruthlessly prioritize, often resulting in day-to-day maintenance falling through the cracks. 

A district’s internal IT team’s time is too valuable to spend on cumbersome maintenance – offloading these tasks to an MSP delivers relief from this mountain of work and frees up IT teams to focus on district innovation, technology strategy and architecture, and serving teachers, staff, and students.

2. Industry Experts

District connectivity and cybersecurity needs are complex. School leaders know they need to bring necessary expertise to the table, but what if their team doesn’t have specialized network staff and resources in-house? Hiring expert talent is expensive and extremely competitive, but gaps can potentially lead to cybersecurity and network vulnerabilities – which, if exploited, could cause devastating disruptions in student learning and even close schools or entire districts for days.

With professional and managed services, districts can access the expertise they need without hiring additional staff. These services extend internal teams with easy access to certified engineers who have a deep understanding of K-12 technology requirements. IT teams can collaborate with and lean on world-class network and cybersecurity experts to optimize their environments. Some MSPs also provide optional on-site personnel for districts wanting dedicated and exclusive support.

While the thought of relinquishing network control and access to an outside party can be uncomfortable for some, handing over complicated and time-consuming tasks to niche professionals can actually be more secure and elevate a district’s overall security posture.

3. Flexibility is the Name of the Game 

No two districts or IT departments look the same. With professional and managed technology services, flexibility is on the district’s side because there is no “one size fits all”.

No matter the needs, technology services can help districts stay on top of their specific critical IT activities, bring valuable insight to strategy and architecture decisions, and can be used in conjunction with each other for full lifecycle support. For example, districts will often use professional services for initial consulting, assessments, and remediation strategies, then choose fully managed or co-management services for ongoing support and maintenance.

Some common use cases districts engage technology services for include:

  • Networks assessments for WAN, LAN, WLAN, and private LTE networks
  • Project definitions to help inform a scope of work for a vendor, or proposal to a school board, etc.
  • Cybersecurity assessments including pen testing, NIST Cybersecurity Assessment, and more
  • Managing complex environments or security systems, including:
    • WAN, LAN, and WLAN connectivity networks
    • Systems and applications environments
    • Network and firewall security optimization
  • 24/7 support for a specific vendor’s equipment
  • Help desk support

4. Who Are You Going to Call? Only One Vendor

Picture this – your network unexpectedly goes down, but instead of having to juggle communications with multiple unresponsive and unhelpful carriers, you only make one phone call to one vendor who urgently manages the troubleshooting process by collaborating with and working alongside your team to reach resolution.

It’s not too good to be true – whether a district needs general support, advice, guidance on a product, or troubleshooting an issue with their network, they only have one vendor to call – their MSP. The MSP will work directly with the district’s equipment or hardware manufacturer to troubleshoot the problem(s) and oversee carrier management on their behalf, no matter how many underlying providers there are. Additionally, many MSPs proactively monitor district systems and can often address problems before their even aware of an issue, minimizing downtime and saving precious money and resources.

Whether a district is looking for end-to-end, co-managed, or one-time professional services, there are experienced managed and technology service providers, such as ENA, that can help school districts alleviate and address workforce shortages.  

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