two call centers open up and immediately there was a shortage of
qualified interpreters. At my school we have an interpreting need of
about 200-300 hours per week. This was impossible to meet with the
shortage. Our response was to vend out to agencies to fill our gaps which
ran about 60-70 hours per week, i.e. one-third of our total. There was no
other choice because the services are mandated. Of course, this was very
expensive, but it certainly had an impact in that we were able to argue
for a substantial pay increase for interpreters in order to attract them
back. At least one other school in the area had the savvy to do the same.
We are now paying almost $44 per hour (and arguably it should be even
higher) and HR will not let us pay anything higher to our employees. You
can do the math and see what our budget now looks like. This year we are
hiring two more AY staff interpreters to lock in their hours and that
will hardly put a dent in our overall need. I have a lot of thoughts on
what makes a postsecondary venue an attractive place to work (as well as
the kind of interpreter that can do well in this environment but I'll
save that for another rant some other day!) and I would recommend that
schools think about first having competitive pay and benefits, and then
think about making their school a compelling place to work because it
offers non-monetary incentives.
With VRS acting as a black hole what I have noticed is, for lack of a
better term, "bottom feeding": good terps go to VRS and this opens up
opportunities for, well, less qualified interpreters. Or even signers.
It's been deplorable. But despite the shortage, institutions are not
therefore relieved of their responsibility to provide access.
Immediately. It takes years to train qualified interpreters, so calls to
train more do very little to solve our immediate need. I need an
interpreter today, not in six years! So our "strategy" in the short term
is to throw money at the problem. Do I think this is a solution? Yes,
it's a solution just like bailing water faster out of boat with a hole is
By the way, getting my institution's or your institution's immediate
interpreting needs met is also a "solution" of sorts. A solution for you.
Or me. But given that interpreting resources are limited and finite, and
resource allocation is at or near the max overall, this begins to look
suspiciously like a zero-sum game: this only shifts the problem into
somebody else's backyard. So schools or venues with money get to solve
their problem. But what about everybody else? In the end somebody ends up
not getting served. But hey, I got mine, Jack!
(x-posted to aslterps)