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Understanding Current Challenges and Barriers Contributing to Shortages

Labor shortages are complex problems created by a web of intersecting factors. As part of the Educator Shortage Summit, participants discussed factors contributing to the current educator shortage. The key issues that emerged from those conversations are presented in the form of a PESTLE analysis. PESTLE is an acronym that stands for the six segments of the macro environment: (1) political, (2) economic, (3) social, (4) technological, (5) legal, and (6) environmental. A PESTLE analysis provides a way to audit and document key external factors that influence an organization, industry, or economy. 

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A PESTLE analysis identifies short-term and long-term trends and issues. Once these are documented, organizations can then decide what actions are needed to minimize risk, create efficiencies, build partnerships, identify disruptive innovations, enhance workforce capabilities, and maximize competitive advantages. Although it is a simple framework, a PESTLE analysis facilitates externally-focused, strategic thinking. This PESTLE analysis documents outside forces currently impacting labor shortages in the education market. PK-20 stakeholders can use this summary to gain a clearer picture of the key factors contributing to the educator shortage and discuss which factors are having the greatest impact in their own community. With this knowledge, leaders can strategically focus on the shifts that address their most pressing pain points. 


External Factors Impacting Educator Shortages


Impact of local, state, and federal government Political factors include tax policies, rules, regulations, and funding.

  • Intense debates at the intersection of education and political hot topics (e.g., critical race theory, policies for transgender students, living wage)

  • Education used as a political platform during election cycles for local, state, and federal appointments

  • Political instability of school and state boards of education during election cycles

  • Current and future political support and funding for education (e.g., CARES Act)

  • Shifts in the degree of local, state, and/or federal control

  • Structure and purpose of organizations that provide oversight for education (e.g., accountability vs. innovation, control vs. support)

  • Disconnect between state focus and local needs 


Impact of the economy on finances Economic factors include inflation, unemployment rates, interest rates, cost of living/ labor.

Individual-level Factors

  • Cost of educator preparation programs compared to entry-level salaries

  • Education salaries compared to other professions/industries that required the same level of education (e.g., nurses, psychologists)

  • Cost of obtaining and maintaining certification/licensure

  • Unpaid clinical/student teaching experiences

  • Lack of reasonable pathways for mid-career changers (e.g., shorter duration, ability to continue working while pursuing license/certification)

  • Lack of career trajectory and growth options

Organizational-level Factors

  • Inequity in funding sources and formulas (urban vs rural vs suburban)  

  • Rising costs (inflation, wage expectations) without increases in budget to meet them

  • Increased competition for student enrollment and associated funding among public, private, and charter schools

  • Declining unemployment rates and a hot labor market for entry-level or lower-wage positions

  • Increased competition for candidates with transferable skills/qualifications (e.g., bus drivers, teachers, IT)


Impact of beliefs, norms, and demographic trends. Social factors include opinions and attitudes, media, demographics, and population growth/decline.

  • Increased public attention on school boards and education in general

  • Public perception of public education and a lack of respect for the teaching profession (e.g., it’s easy, it’s part-time, anyone can do it)

  • Some educators speak poorly of their own profession and discourage students from pursuing a career in education

  • Negative media coverage

  • Lack of role models for diverse candidates due to low diversity of current educators and individuals enrolled in preparation programs

  • Challenges experienced by current educators of color such as social isolation, devaluing of their contributions, microaggressions, or being assigned extra work or more difficult assignments

  • Declining enrollment in educator preparation programs may lead to closures and the creation of program deserts

  • Shifting community demographics (e.g., SES, race, ethnicity, special education, refugee status) that schools are serving

  • Changes in social skills, emotional needs, mental health, and behavior of the general school-age population

  • Tendency to place new teachers in most challenging roles

  • Educators’ lack of autonomy/decision-making authority

  • Increasing expectations to take on additional duties outside of traditional work roles without additional support or compensation


Impact of technology advances and innovation.

Technological factors include automation, research and development, and emerging technologies.

  • A more connected society increases access to information about actual, lived experience in the profession (good or bad)

  • Growing virtual educator industry  

  • Increased technology use is driving the need for employees with greater technology skills

  • Technology has facilitated a trend toward remote work arrangements in other industries

  • Variance in capabilities (e.g., internet bandwidth, internet speed, software applications) hampers the ability to take advantage of technological advancements

  • Lack of data on the teacher labor market (i.e. state and federal supply and demand data) makes it challenging to monitor and address trends

  • Limited data on candidate outcomes to inform alignment of preparation curriculum with certification exams and the current education context  


Impact of current and proposed legislation or standards.

Legal factors include legislation, internal policies, and industry/ professional  standards

  • Legislation in areas such as employment law, health and safety, and pandemic policies

  • Unfunded mandates increase pressure on school budgets

  • Complexity and inefficiencies in certification and licensure processes (e.g., teacher, school nurse, bus driver) make them challenging and cumbersome to navigate

  • Variation in licensure requirements by state and a lack of licensure reciprocity

  • Low passage rates on licensure exams

  • Variation in alternative certification options

  • State laws that limit discretion (e.g., degree of local control over educator evaluation and compensation varies)

  • Restrictions on state pension for retiree re-employment

  • District policies restrict when employees can take time off


Impact of the physical environment and environmental policies.

Environmental factors include environmental policies, climate, and geographic location.

  • Location relative to population centers impacts size of the applicant pool

  • COVID pandemic has placed increased demands on educators (e.g., learning gaps, behavioral issues, mental health, maintaining a clean/safe environment for learning)

  • Poor working conditions such as lack of materials/supplies and deteriorating worksite infrastructure

  • Concerns over school safety and violence in schools

  • Educators feel unprepared for the realities of teaching and the education environment due to gaps in preparation and access to authentic clinical experiences

  • Lack of accessible support, resources, and mentoring 

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