Marketing is essential not only to recruit speech-language pathologists to the schools, but also to retain them. Competition is intense with other service providers, such as private contracting companies, so schools must recruit aggressively and offer comparable benefits.
School-based marketing includes two distinct efforts: State education departments should support and guide school district administrators in marketing and SLPs also must market the value of their services to administrators, staff, parents, and students in their schools and districts.
At the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE), a group of school-based SLPs met in 2006 to brainstorm concerns about recruitment and retention. The walls were quickly covered with large posters that reflected concerns about working in schools. These concerns related to advocacy, funding, professional development, public relations, service delivery, certification, working conditions, caseload, paperwork, program organization, and school district support. The group decided that all of these concerns could be addressed through marketing, and the "Project SLP: Recruitment and Retention in the Schools" (Project SLP:RRS) was born.
The marketing effort includes the following activities on the state, district, and school levels:
- A statewide e-newsletter markets school-based speech-language pathology. It provides links to activities related to speech-language pathology at the national, state, and local levels and lists school district vacancies. The "COMMUNICATE!" e-newsletter reaches approximately 1,000 subscribers each month through the SLPNews listserv, which includes SLPs, parents, education administrators, institutions of higher education, and local, state, and national organizations.
- A speech-language Web page highlights the profession. The "Speech-Language Impairment" Web page on the SCDE Web site (search "speech-language impairment" on the South Carolina Department of Education Web site.) provides information about Project SLP:RRS, South Carolina educator certification and licensure, Medicaid, and resources for parents and professionals. Links also are provided to statewide assistive technology services; Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement; Office of School-Based Health Finance; ASHA; South Carolina Speech-Language-Hearing Association (SCSHA); and the "COMMUNICATE!" e-newsletter.
- A recruitment and retention packet helps school district personnel administrators increase recruitment and market the profession. The packet includes guidelines for SLP recruitment and retention, a PowerPoint presentation showing the need for SLPs from a national and state perspective, information about the funding that SLP services provide to a school district, and a summary of results from the annual Project SLP:RRS survey of special education directors. This survey provides statewide data on school district vacancies, working conditions, financial incentives, and suggests how these factors may interact to improve recruitment and retention of school-based SLPs.
- Local outreach efforts raise awareness of the profession. Clinicians participate in local job fairs, provide presentations at annual faculty and parent-teacher organization meetings, offer seminars about the profession to high school classes, and volunteer for other activities.
- Scholarships provide an entry point to the profession. Since 2006, scholarships have been offered to 80 individuals from a variety of backgrounds—including business and medicine—to work in the schools. Districts provide funding, support, mentoring, and workload consideration for recipients who commit to five years of school-based employment.
The marketing efforts are showing results. Since 2006, school district vacancies have decreased from 64% to 29%. Implementation of the workload system in local school districts has increased from 11% to 38%, and the percentage of school districts offering financial incentives has increased to 78%.