Sustainable Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Sign Language Interpreters & Captionists

Ensuring equitable and accessible experiences in education and training settings for deaf people includes having a qualified pool of providers. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges have been experiencing provider shortages, as well as, struggling to recruit and retain qualified providers.

Knowing this, there are still many opportunities to grow and maintain provider pools. Whether you are proactively planning or responding to an unexpected need, you can employ strategies that will find the providers you need and establish long term relationships with them.

Improving Institutional Practices

Deaf students will continue to enroll in postsecondary education and training programs. This means that the demand for qualified and highly skilled providers will also continue. As a result, institutions are encouraged to examine existing systems, implement incremental changes and improvements or employ strategies that will provide sustainable efforts to recruitment and retention providers. 

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Collect Data

Changing practices begins with evaluating and collecting existing internal (e.g. count how many times you had a last-minute request that you could not fill)—specific to your institution—and external (e.g. comparing local interpreter pay rates with neighboring institutions and/or interpreter agencies) data, and discerning current capacity. Consider what factors are contributing to insufficient services. Gaining an understanding of ebbs and flows of service demands, potential system barriers as well as projecting anticipated needs will be valuable evidence when decisions need to be made. This is also an opportunity to research or inquire about effective practices at other institutions, and gather input from students. Unfortunately, at this time, there is a lack of national data collection on interpreter pay rates.

Plan & Discuss

Once you have data collected, set up an opportunity to review and discuss the data with colleagues and the administration as a baseline for making plans and decisions about what is possible for the institution. This dialog is a collective and collaborative effort, including administrators or decision-makers, to ensure an institutional commitment to quality services for deaf students. 

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Implement, Monitor, and Adjust

 Next, plans and responsibilities can be implemented incrementally. Clear and consistent communications across campuses are essential to maintain equitable experiences for deaf students. Departments and staff should be aware of institutional practices, as well as, their role and responsibilities in implementing practices. Regular progress monitoring and modifications as needed are also important to ensure effectiveness of strategies employed.

Increasing Your Pool of Providers

To address shortages, colleges are implementing a variety of measures to combat shortages. Implementing one strategy is unlikely to make a big impact, but implementing 2-3 short-term strategies paired with a long-term solution can be transformative. Colleges are increasing payment and offering perks, employing creative scheduling solutions, and exploring opportunities to grow their own pool of interpreters.

Short Term Strategies

Long Term Strategies

Pay increases

Providing remote workspaces for interpreters

Offering paid parking

Advocating for permanent staff positions

Paid prep time

Offering paid internships for recent BIPOC graduates

Creating ‘on-call’ opportunities 

Sharing services with nearby colleges

Committing to consistent hours

Adopting a centralized budget system

Adopting block scheduling

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