YMCA may delay start of after-school programs

The region’s largest after-school child care providers have managed to hire about half the number of staff they need, with less than two weeks until school starts.

The Capital District YMCA needs about 130 additional workers for its programs, which take place in schools and at YMCA sites in 14 school districts. The program employs a total of approximately 280 workers each year.

“Unfortunately, this particular year is a crisis for us,” said Lynn Seibert, executive director of YMCA daycares and day camps.

The YMCA is not alone. Many after-school programs are still hiring. The Albany Boys and Girls Clubs has only 20 of the 40 employees they need for their after-school programs.

If the YMCA doesn’t recruit enough workers, officials could delay the start of the afterschool program, throwing parents’ plans into chaos this fall.

Already, the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs don’t start on the first day of school, leaving parents to seek out other child care for the first week or two.

The YMCA begins on September 12 to avoid the logistical challenges of starting different programs on different days when each district it serves has its first day.

The YMCA hosts a series of job fairs and accepts online applications.

Career fairs will be held: August 24, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Bethlehem YMCA, 900 Delaware Ave., Delmar
August 30, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Glenville YMCA, 127 Droms Road, Scotia
August 31, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Southern Saratoga YMCA, 1 Wall St., Clifton Park
September 8, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Schenectady YMCA, 422 State St, Schenectady

Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany won’t start until Sept. 19, due to a grant that limits their start date.

That date is firm even though they still don’t have staff, said Albany Boys and Girls Clubs program manager Elee Wolf.

“We will start our programs at half capacity (if not fully staffed) but we are not delaying any programs,” she said.

Workers at after-school Boys and Girls Club sites must be at least 18 years old and a high school diploma or GED is preferred. The clubs also hire teachers and teacher aides for the universal preschool program, for which teachers must have a bachelor’s degree.

At the YMCA, programs may be delayed.

“At this point, what we’re trying to tell our families is, ‘It’s a possibility. It may be a delayed start,” Seibert said. “We will work as we have worked to try to fill these vacancies.”

The YMCA hires many high school students, ages 16 and 17, at a starting wage of $13.20 an hour, the minimum wage. Fast food restaurants now have a minimum wage of $15 an hour, but Seibert said she doesn’t think the pay scale is the reason for the lack of workers this year.

“I don’t think it’s the salary. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I’ve been doing this for a long time,” she said.

During the pandemic, some parents discouraged their teens from taking part-time jobs, to reduce potential exposures to COVID, she said. But it has been difficult for the YMCA, as teenagers are a key part of their workforce.

“We rely heavily on our high school students,” she said.

The YMCA offers flexible hours so that those who leave school after the start of a program can still work the rest of the afternoon. Those who play sports often take their sports season off but work the rest of the year, she said.

She wondered if the problem was work.

“It’s hard work,” she said. “I think that’s a misnomer. People think you only come to work to play with the kids.

But, she added, it offers something different from other part-time jobs for teens. “This is very meaningful work. You are truly making a difference in their lives. It is valuable work,” she said.

And work is crucial for parents. Most parents work and they can’t leave work at 2 p.m. every day. “Our community exists on the backs of child care providers. We know people can’t go to work if we can’t staff these sites,” she said.

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