Smart program administrators invest the time and effort to attract and retain a high-caliber, dynamic instructional staff, which is the program’s greatest asset. Instructors are the primary service providers-when they shine, so does the overall program. Likewise, when they do poorly, their reputation spreads to the entire program.
Good instructors are prepared and have clear goals for the class and well-developed lesson plans. They engage participants in the excitement and joy of the learning or participatory experience; most of all, they represent the program in a professional manner. The following list highlights some of the characteristics to look for when building an instructional staff:
• Is people-oriented and relates well to participants
• Is enthusiastic about sharing knowledge and skills with others
• Displays a friendly, helpful, sharing attitude
• Demonstrates an ability for managing and conducting classes
• Understands the importance of being well prepared and punctual
• Accepts responsibility for complying with policies and procedures
• Has a good understanding of conditioning, etiquette, and equipment as each relates to the subject area
• Knows the standards pertaining to risk management and practices good class design and management skills that reduce the potential for injury and negligence
• Possesses appropriate certification issued by an accredited agency or professional association
• Presents and conducts him- or herself in a professional manner
Recruitment and retention of highly qualified instructors are continual challenges. Programs that build a solid reputation for quality and professionalism attract potential instructors-either to teach courses currently offered or to bring new courses to the program. Administrators often spend a great deal of time searching for the right person to teach that unique or special course.
Three kinds of instructors serve campus recreation programs: institutional employees, volunteer instructors, and independent contractors. Any given program may use instructors from one or more of these categories
It is important to understand the impact and legal implications of these three employment options, especially the differences between the institutional employee and the independent contractor. Although it happens rarely, some agencies and institutions have had the status of their instructors as independent contractors challenged by the IRS. An IRS determination that an independent contractor has been acting within the definition of an employee can result in the institution compensating the instructor with employee benefits retroactive to the start of employment.
In this instance, instructors are hired as employees of the institution. The employee has a job description, a supervisor, and a defined reporting structure. The employee is evaluated and can be dismissed for appropriate cause. The institution maintains control over all aspects of the program and is held accountable for workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits for the employee. Primary liability remains with the institution while the employee is performing within the scope of job responsibilities. (See chapter 13.)
Programs occasionally use volunteers to teach some of their courses. Less common is an all-volunteer instructional staff. From time to time an instructor will approach a program and offer to teach a particular course on a volunteer basis either out of a spirit of goodwill, a desire to affiliate with the institution, or to get a foot in the door and build a following. Also common is a program that provides instructor training and development in exchange for volunteers teaching or assisting with classes.
Coordination with the institution’s personnel and risk management departments is important before using the services of volunteers. Some institutions require volunteers to complete applications to formalize their relationship with the institution, and others provide workers’ compensation or some level of liability insurance coverage. Using volunteers in the instructional setting has greater risk for programs, and it is important for the program administrator to understand exactly what those risks are and the institution’s preferences for modifying that risk. Whether paid or volunteer, the instructor must be qualified to teach the course.
Table 4.1 outlines some of the pros and cons to consider when employing professional staff, students, or volunteers in recreation programs.
In a contractual relationship, the institution legally contracts with an outside agency or individual for a specific service. Care must be taken to select a reputable contractor, define the terms and conditions of the contract, and establish a strong working relationship.
The contracted instructor or agency does the following:
• Provides the services specified in the terms of the contract
• Follows the policies and procedures set forth by the contract
• Has the necessary skills to do the job
• Does not receive direct supervision by the institution
• Carries the responsibility and liability for the program or service
Institutions often choose to outsource services to independent contractors to reduce overhead costs related to the salaries and benefits associated with institutional employees, to shift liability from the institution to the service provider, and when services can more efficiently be provided by the contractor. Independent contractors are commonly used when the instructional setting for the course is high risk or features expensive equipment or when off-campus facilities are required for activities, such as horseback riding, photography, or white-water rafting. Every institution has a level of risk it is willing to take. The wise administrator works closely with risk management personnel when weighing decisions about whether or how to offer such activities.
The argument for independent contractor status is stronger if the service is provided off campus in a contractor-owned, -rented, or -managed site, and if the contractor is engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business (Strong, 1992).
Before entering into a contract with an independent contractor, the administrator should investigate several service providers to select the best for the program. This practice, combined with a well-worded contract, should alleviate many problems (Meyers, 1991).