Hoping for a fulltime teaching job? Think again
Oversupply of education graduates fueling teaching job shortage in Ontario
Marco Ursi, Macleans.ca | Jun 28, 2007 | 18:46:37
“Teaching is a very attractive career in Ontario,” says Frank McIntyre, manager of human resources at the Ontario College of Teachers. “The natural level of interest is quite high if the jobs are available.” In 1998, McIntyre published a study warning of a looming teacher shortage in the province. Baby Boomers were retiring at unprecedented rates. Graduates weren’t replenishing the ranks quickly enough. Word quickly spread: jobs were available.
Over the next five years, the Ontario Ministry of Education added 5,000 spots across the province to train new teachers. Some students are even looking outside of Canada for their training; schools in New York State with Ontario teacher certification programs increased enrollment by nearly 200 per cent, according to McIntyre. Meanwhile, teacher retirement slowed. The result: jobs aren’t so available anymore.
According to McIntyre’s recent study, “Transition to Teaching,” just one-quarter of non-French elementary school educators outside the Greater Toronto Area who started teaching in 2005 found a full-time job by the end of their first year working. Those who are qualified to teach French, math, science, and technology do better—there’s still a shortage in these traditionally shortage-prone areas. But for the majority, it’s supply teaching or bust. (That is, if they can get substitute teaching jobs, which are often filled by retired teachers looking to pad their wallets.)
The tepid market hasn’t slowed demand for spots at education faculties in Ontario—over 16,000 candidates are competing for about 7,500 September spots. Many of those who don’t get in will apply to schools south of the border, such as Medaille College, D’Youville College, Niagra University, and Daemen College. Tuition at these private, for-profit schools can cost students over US$20,000, not including travel and accommodation. And while admission standards are technically not lower than those at Ontario faculties, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the 1,700 graduates coming out of these schools are second-choice candidates. “All I know is people who don’t get in here, go there,” say Leroy Whitehead, Associate Dean of Education a Queen’s University in Kingston. “And pay a lot of money for it.”
But before the anti-teacher crowd gets too riled up, consider the story of Dufferin Warren, who will graduate from Medaille in September. Two years ago, Warren, 31, left a high-paying job with the Toronto film industry. “I was making buckets of money but it wasn’t enjoyable and I wasn’t feeling challenged,” Warren says. When a career counselor suggested teaching, Warren, who had already worked with children at summer camps and in sports programs, headed to Taiwan to teach English as a second language, hoping to gain more experience and increase his chances of breaking into a teaching program at an Ontario university. When all that came in the mail were rejection letters, a cousin suggested Medaille, where Warren’s application was finally accepted. Upon graduation, he expects to work as an occasional teacher for at least a year, while maintaining a part-time catering job to supplement his income. “I wanted to get into teaching, and I found out there were a bunch other people who wanted to do same thing,” he says.
That won’t change any time soon, McIntyre says. The oversupply is “going to last for quite a long time. We won’t get into a situation of high retirement rates until the large numbers of teachers we hired in the late 90s and 2000-2001 start to retire.” Meanwhile, “we’re continuing on an upward trend in all the sources of new Ontario teachers.”
One solution to the imbalance is to develop more teachers in high-demand subjects, McIntyre says. “What would be very helpful would be more people coming into teacher education who were interested in teaching French, and more people with interests in physics and chemistry and math and computer studies,” he says. The problem, though, is that many people who specialize in these areas are able to find better paying jobs elsewhere.
Alice Pitt, York University associate dean of education, suggests faculties start identifying students who want to go into teaching at an early stage in their university career, in order to develop their skills in shortage areas. “We have to take students who don’t see themselves as math teachers and work with them to create math teachers out of them.” But this is much easier to do in theory than in practice, she admits. A solution will require cooperation between school boards, government, universities, and faculties within universities, she says, and “it’s clearly difficult for these big institutions to work together, to create a coherent, credible response to this kind of issue.”
But even if these institutions do somehow find ways to collaborate, it won’t be of much help to this year’s graduates. Most will spend the summer sending out applications and meeting with school principals, hoping to land a job that’s probably not available for them. “There’s a sense of competition between all of us,” York grad Elenora Marrella says. “But, personally, I’m not too worried. I’m only 23. I know I’ll get a permanent position eventually.”