Each year, Sandhills Community College helps more than 400 people return to school after years, if not decades, out of the classroom.

But Sandhills’ College and Career Readiness Department now faces a shortage of non-traditional instructors to support these non-traditional learners.

The department is not unlike other schools and colleges across the country currently struggling to retain staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is even more difficult to recruit teachers with severe funding constraints.

Part of the community college’s mission is to develop the local workforce by equipping its students with the skills most sought after by area employers. But technical skills might as well be a pipe dream for the significant number of adults without a high school diploma or basic knowledge of English.

“There are a lot of jobs there. Employers need workers,” said Niole Worley, director of Sandhills’ College and Career Readiness department. “We help people who don’t have a high school diploma, who aren’t eligible for career or employment opportunities or even higher-level education.”

College and Career Readiness courses help fill a critical gap in the local labor pool by providing a foundational education to anyone with the time to devote to it. The courses are all free for students.

The vast majority of students in the program arrive with reading and math skills below ninth grade level. Worley estimated that as few as 5% enter the program at the secondary level.

Deb Sikes, coordinator at Sandhills’ Hoke Center in Raeford, said the program needed instructors for the full range of its offerings: adult basic education, high school equivalency and English language acquisition.

“As most educators would say, teachers don’t get into teaching for the money. They have a passion for helping others, and that passion is continually charged when they see their students succeed,” said Sikes said.

“Such success is rewarding in the CCR program, where you help change lives, one student at a time. There is no greater sense of accomplishment than watching a mature student change the direction of their life and that of their family.

Classes are offered during the day and evening at Sandhills campuses in Pinehurst, Robbins and Raeford.

The program gets most of its funding from federal grants through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Where traditional college course offerings are supported by state funding based on student enrollment, college and career preparation courses receive a much lower level of funding through this system.

As a result, the program only hires part-time instructors and has lost staff to other employment opportunities over the past two years.

“It really has to be someone who is interested in working with the most needy people,” Worley said. “Because our funding stream is quite regulated and tight, we can’t quite compete with the amount of money our professors earn in college-level classrooms.”

The primary requirement for college and career readiness program instructors is a bachelor’s degree in any field. Certified teachers are welcome, but Sandhills is open to applicants from a variety of backgrounds: whether retired educators or young professionals interested in trying a career change or simply giving back to the community.

“Our instructors, as part-time instructors with other careers in some cases, come from all walks of life,” Worley said. “Some just have a passion and they come and learn to teach. We pair them with a seasoned instructor.

Instructors who do not already have a credential recognized by the NC Community College System when they start must obtain one within two years, unless they have a graduate degree in education. With the help of the Sandhills Community College Foundation, the college funds this training for its CCR instructors.

“We try to foster a team culture at CCR, where our teachers work together to support and learn from each other,” Sikes said. “We know this creates the kind of support our students need to be successful.”

Worley said there was no specific number of open positions; it’s more about making sure there’s an instructor for every class. Some of the instructors in the program teach three hours two evenings a week as a side job, while others teach from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. four days a week.

Some even co-teach, sharing a full-time class with each other. Classes run year-round, with new students starting eight times a year.

“It’s about as managed as it gets without registration while still trying to meet the need,” Worley said. “The need is continuous because we are constantly trying to meet the needs of students. Sometimes we have to change what we offer and we need teachers who are also willing to be flexible. »

Currently, the program is struggling to staff its Hoke County classes, as well as recruit replacements who can step in to oversee testing, because regular instructors are not allowed to test their own students.

Anyone interested in becoming a College and Career Readiness Instructor can apply for the position “Year-Round Application Pool – College and Career Readiness Instructor (Basic Skills), Training continue” available at sandhills.edu/employment-sandhills-community-college.

“We have a lot of retired educators in this area, we have a lot of people who care. They may just not know this opportunity exists,” Worley said.

“Our goal is to bring more people into our local workforce who have that degree and can go beyond that high school equivalency to get that higher education and become much more employable.”

For more information about adult basic education and high school equivalency programs in Moore County, contact Beckie Kimbrell at ki[email protected] or (910) 695-3779; for Hoke County, contact Deb Sikes at [email protected] or (910) 848-4300.

For more information about English language acquisition courses, contact Isabel Cain at [email protected] or (910) 246-4975. To complete an online orientation request form, visit sandhills.edu/ccr.