The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has developed a position statement on Social Equity.
Communities are becoming increasingly diverse. Does your workforce reflect that diversity? Park and Recreation organizations regularly grapple with this concept. Still, others are oblivious. What challenges do you face in your agency or organization for promoting a diverse workforce?
When this question was posed to Park and Recreation professionals; respondents cited numerous challenges.
Current hiring practices are restrictive or are subject to political interference.
There is no identified pipeline to recruit persons of color or people with disabilities for Parks & Recreation jobs.
There were no diverse applicants.
Pay scales cannot compete with fast food restaurants.
Park and Recreation staff expressed frustration and a desire for support and training in recruitment techniques. On the surface, these are valid excuses. However, solutions require a strong commitment, research into best practices, analysis and critical thinking.
When inquiring about recruitment practices that have yielded increased diversity in professional Park and Recreation agency workforces, few solutions or ideas were offered. Therefore, we should think back to the basic techniques we employ to recruit program participants.
Personal connections to the people we serve are integral to ensuring social equity. While the topic of workforce diversity is broad; begin by focusing on part time and seasonal employees. Seasonal employees are generally older teens and young adults. Often, they decide to pursue post-secondary education to become Park and Recreation professionals. Building a diverse workforce is a process that develops over time.
Helen Ubinas, columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer recently wrote an article featuring four lifeguards in Philadelphia Parks and Recreation. Their deep commitment, knowledge of their communities and care for the neighborhood youth illustrates the value of hiring people from the neighborhoods.
There is no quick solution to building a diverse and equitable workforce. It is an intentional process. The most important action you can take is to get out of the office and be present in your community and at the activities you offer. Reach out to your program participant families. Talk to people. Build relationships. Creating awareness of seasonal jobs such as camp counselors and lifeguards is an important step. Ask your teens and young adults if they have ever considered working for your agency. Mention it to their parents or guardians. Sometimes, they need a little push. Conversations with prospective staff can yield both perceived and actual obstacles to employment. What trainings are needed? Can you provide those trainings at little or no cost? Winter is the time to think about hiring summer staff for your camps and pools. Over time, these actions pay off. Engagement will cultivate community investment. This investment in diversity and equity will significantly enhance your community and programs.
When our staff reflects the families in our community…we are all richer for the experience.
Park and Recreation professionals have a responsibility to recruit, train and hire staff that reflects the diversity in their communities. The most important strategy is to engage with the people we serve. Residents are a rich resource for feedback and ideas. Over time, your investment will pay off.