Two-thirds of new teachers can't find full-time work

Province reacts with "hard cap" on new enrollments

Few other graduates in Canada have as much reason for pessimism as those who finished teacher’s college this spring. A study from the Ontario College of Teachers shows that two-thirds (67 per cent) of education graduates from Ontario’s class of 2009 found themselves unemployed or underemployed in the following year. And, the unemployment rate among new teachers has exploded to a staggering 24 per cent — up from just three per cent in 2006.

The job market is bad in western Canada too. In British Columbia, 2,700 new students were certified by the College of Teachers last year. The BC Public School Employers’ Association says that only 1,000 are needed, according to the Victoria Times Colonist. Even in fast-growing Alberta, many school boards are laying off.

The situation has caused Ontario to take an unusual step. In May, it placed a “hard cap” on funding for newly enrolled education students. Caps are usually reserved for medical professions only, but John Milloy, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities for Ontario, explained that the supply and demand is so out of whack that teacher’s college enrollments needed to be culled.

“We recognize that not every graduate of education programs wants to be a teacher in Ontario,” says the Minister. “But at the same time, we want to make sure that when people leave [teacher’s college] they have a realistic chance of getting a job.”

The problem for grads is that Canada has fewer school-aged children, fewer retiring teachers and yet teacher’s colleges have chosen to pump out more grads over the past decade. The new cap in Ontario will force first-year classes to shrink by 885 students overall by 2012-13. That means a maximum of 9,058 new students will start next fall.

But is that enough? The new cap is still far above the 8,077 teachers from Ontario schools who registered with the provincial college in 1999 — a period when an average of 7,200 Ontario teacher’s retired each year, creating many spots for new grads. In the period between 2005 to 2009, average annual retirements fell to just 4,600, meaning thousands fewer jobs per year.

And now? “Teacher retirements are forecast to remain under 5,000 annually over the next seven years,” concluded the College of Teachers’ report. That means the bleak job market for new teachers is unlikely to improve any time soon.