Outsourcing substitutes: the temporary trend to a permanent problem

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A vote up for discussion Tuesday night could have local schools outsourcing substitute teachers in Georgetown County. Local economists are seeing the trend continue as more industries transition to temp agencies.

For the last two years, the Human Resource Department with the Georgetown County School District has kicked around the idea to outsource substitute teachers.

"While preparing for the Affordable Care Act, we realized how it will impact the district using substitutes. In the event that temporary folks work more than 30 hours, the Affordable Care Act will cost the district a lot of money," explained Jon Tester, the Executive Director of Human Resources.

During a presentation to the school board, Tester used the fiscal year of 2013-14 to show the cost for substitutes and substitute aides.

He then compared those numbers to how much the district would save if it used Kelly Services, a temp agency, after the ACA kicks in.

"With 223 subs during that fiscal year, we discovered the hard cost savings would be around $90,000," said Tester.

An even greater cost to the district is the soft costs associated with substitute teachers. This includes the cost of processing payroll, W2s, and training for those employees.

"It would be another $100,000 on top of the $90,000 saved on hard costs," said Tester.

Training, tracking, and placing substitutes is labor intensive for HR, and adding to the plate is the price of the ACA.

"If this is approved, it will be put into place before January 1st when the Affordable Care Act starts," said Tester. He added that there should be no disruption to current substitutes, that a database will be set up for current subs to transfer over to Kelly Services.

"They can be identified for more than one job," said Tester. He explained this opens up many more employment opportunities for subs seeking employment throughout the summer months.

Educational staffing is only one service provided by Kelly Services.

"It is becoming a workforce of free agents. Workers want the flexibility to freelance and not be tied down to a contract," shared Denise Ridenour with Kelly Services.

Ridenour explained Kelly Services allows a school to focus on its true purpose: education.

"By coming in to recruit and train, it relieves the school from dealing with the administrative burden of advertising positions, recruiting, etc," said Ridenour.

The possibility of Horry County switching to the service

Some schools in Horry County don't want to give up that control when it comes to recruitment efforts.

"I bring in applicants to talk. We go on a tour of the school, we go in classrooms. It gives me a chance to see how they interact with kindergartners coming up to hug them, are they going to be able to handle that? With my 8th graders during locker change, are they going to be able to handle that?" said Principal Courtney Fancher, with the Palmetto Academy of Learning in Myrtle Beach.

Horry County School Board Chairman Joe Defeo shares Principal Fancher's concerns.

"We have discussed it on the agenda during meetings. I'm not sure we will go in that direction, I wouldn't like to lose so much control in something associated so closely to our teachers and students," said Defeo.

He admits the ACA poses a great financial burden to the district with many subs working 30 hours or more. He would prefer the district to absorb those costs and deal with it directly.

Tester pointed out Kelly Services provides more intensive screening and training for substitutes, keeping more recruits retained.

CCU expert weighs in on outsourcing substitute teachers

Robert Salvino, an economist with Coastal Carolina University, believes the ACA is kicking this trend in higher gear.

"The trend has been going on since the recession. Over the last 5-6 years, the workforce that has been temporary is now actually twice what it was before the recession ," shared Salvino.

The number accounts for nearly 20 percent of the entire workforce.

"People who may take a temporary or contract job today that may not have taken one, five or six years ago," he said.

Salvino points to the hiring uncertainties across the board in every industry to explain the trend.

"You don't need to bring someone on full time, invest in their training, when in six months you may no longer need that person," he explained.

He said temp agencies are expanding and can offer great solutions to companies. While this trend is a reality people are adjusting to, he believes it is not all positive.

"You want a permanent position because there is an ease of mind that comes with it that also helps the economy," he said.

On the flip side, he explained, you may be able to get experience with a temp job to make some changes in your life that you may not have been able to do otherwise.

A huge factor in transitioning to temp agencies is the aging workforce, he said.

"Retirees are less attached to the workforce than the middle-aged workers," he said, adding retirees prefer customizing their own schedule with temporary work.

The second largest sector of our workforce is on the opposite side of the scare with workers between the ages of 16-25.

"They are mobile and don't have the constraints of family," said Salvino as he explained the temp agencies could help launch younger careers.

The Georgetown County School District plans on voting for the transition to Kelly Services during Tuesday's board meeting.

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