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Talk Data to Me: Did COVID Increase the Education Hiring Pool?

Human Resources

Just how is the pandemic impacting hiring in schools? In previous Talk Data to Me posts (here and here), we explored the effect COVID has had on the number of people applying for jobs in education.

But what about who is applying? Has there been any change in, say, candidates’ experience levels?

Data from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute sheds some light on the number of years of experience that applicants in 2020 had. It’s no secret that COVID-19 has impacted education in many ways, but is it possible that the pandemic is bringing people into education for the first time? The following analysis may hint at exactly that.

One trend we see each year is a drop in the average years of experience of applicants for open job postings between February and May. This trend is primarily explained by soon-to-be graduates from teacher preparation programs applying to begin their careers in the fall, as you can see here in the data from 2019:

As shown above, for the time between mid-March and the end of April, the average years of experience of applicants drops from over 5.5 years to just over 5 years. The drop, though small, is a clear buck in the trend compared to the rest of year.

But what about 2020? We know COVID brought on significant drops in applicants and job postings, but how did it impact applicant years of experience? Check out the chart below.

The drop in average years of experience in 2020 is much more obvious and dramatic than that seen in 2019.

Three different phenomena could explain this more dramatic drop:

  1. A larger proportion of applicants with little to no experience applied for jobs in 2020 than in 2019
  2. A smaller proportion of well-experienced applicants applied in 2020 than in 2019
  3. A combination of #1 and #2

Now, here’s where things get more interesting.

For context, the COVID Federal Emergency Declaration occurred on March 16, 2020. Although this shut down schools along with almost every sector of the economy, applicants kept applying to jobs in our system. But who were they?

The table below shows a breakdown of applicants by their years of experience for March 15–April 30 for the years 2017–2020. Notice how consistent the proportions are for each grouping in each year, except for the proportion of applicants with less than 1 year of experience in 2020.

In 2017–2019, only 21–22% of all applicants reported less than 1 year of experience on their application. But in 2020, that number spiked to 24.4%. That’s a year-to-year change of almost 3.5% — nearly 5 times as large as any other year-over-year change.

Of the three possibilities outlined above, our data indicates that #1 is the most accurate: a larger proportion of applicants with little to no experience applied for jobs in education in 2020 than in previous years.  But why? Is it possible that the start of COVID drove non-educators to seek education jobs? This data doesn’t prove it, but the trends in our applicant pools seem to suggest exactly that.

Did you see new educators in your applicant pool this year? Here are some resources on how to retain them:

Kevin Agnello

Kevin is a Data Analytics Engineer for Frontline Education. He is a former high school mathematics teacher and holds a Master's Degree in Educational Curriculum and Instruction, a Master's Degree in Educational Psychology, and is working on a dissertation toward a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.