A steady stream of candidates made their way through the Ector County Independent School District job fair at George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa late this week and there were plenty of openings for them to consider.
The district has at least 400 job openings for everything from aides and teachers to custodians, electricians, plumbers and cafeteria workers.
Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Gregory Nelson said he couldn’t give an exact figure on the number of teacher openings, but are “definitely over 300” at this point.
“Now the trend is when you lose somebody you have to start immediately thinking when will we be able to fill that position? Will we get enough candidates? Will we get a callback candidate? Even when we get a callback candidate, will they be able to live here, so there’s so many dynamics playing into this now that makes it extremely stressful,” Nelson said.
If a position isn’t filled, it may have to be closed, or the duties picked up by other employees, he said. Nelson added that human resources is working with principals and department leaders to develop strategies to deal with vacancies so students still benefit.
Research shows that fewer people are going into teaching now than 10 or 15 years ago, Nelson said. The alternative certification programs, meant to fill some of that need, now have fewer people going into them in this area because there are so many other opportunities where people can make more money.
“What we’ve had to do is learn how to create a more competitive salary structure,” he added. “… When we’re hiring a plumber, that plumber can plumb with us or they can plumb somewhere else so we’ve got to get our salary as close to the salaries out in the external market as possible so that we can hire the best … plumbers. We need the best plumbers. We need the best electricians.”
“Like I said before, we need everything and we want the best. But if the salary gap is too large, we can’t bring them in. If you bring them in, you can’t keep them. Furthermore, those that you’ve had for years sometimes they say I can make so much more over there, so what we’ve done over the last few years is to raise those salaries as competitive as possible. We’ve gotten a lot closer to the market, especially with the recommendation we’re making to the school board next week …,” Nelson added.
He said education is a calling and when you work for a school district in any capacity, you’re serving students and building the future.
“… Sometimes that is the difference. There are a lot of us who can make more money possibly doing other things, but we know what we’re doing is going to make a difference and going to impact the future …,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he was excited by the turnout Thursday, compared to the last job fair.
“The attendance at this event was extraordinary,” he said in a text message Friday. “We saw a good number of support staff candidates, as well as some teacher candidates. We understand that this type of recruitment will not have the impact it has had in the past. However, the face-to-face recruitment is still very important to our success.”
Yanni Jones, who just moved to Odessa from Baton Rouge, La., said she was looking for an office clerk position. She said she was looking for something long-term.
“I’m just looking for a job really that I can start off in and grow in …,” Jones said.
Angelica Segura, a student at Odessa College, wants to work in education and hoped to find something that would give her flexibility to finish school and a jump start on her career.
“There’s a ton of variety. It seems like just about every school is represented, which is awesome,” Segura said. “It’s great to see all the schools just come together. There’s a lot to offer and there’s a lot here for everyone who may need a job.”
Diana Guajardo, who drove up from Del Rio, wants to move to Odessa because her daughter lives here. She has taught for 15 years at an elementary campus in Del Rio. She was looking at a variety of positions with ECISD and wants to teach at night in higher education.
Guajardo said she wants to help future generations through education because it’s for everybody.