Wannabe teachers play the waiting game - July 5, 2008
So, you want to be a teacher, eh? Well, you better get in line. Last year, 12,670 people were newly certified to teach in the province, according to the Ontario College of Teachers. However, only 5,325 teachers retired. This is creating a surplus of educators.
The Algoma District School Board hired 11 teachers for permanent, full-time positions at the secondary level, said Bob Cole, superintendent of education. This number was nearly twice that last year. For its 44 total positions available at the high school level, the board received around 600 applications, said Cole.
A similar situation can be found at the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board. Although he didn't have specific numbers, education director John Stadnyk said, "We have very few positions (available) this year." Less than 12 teachers retired in 2008, he added.
The local numbers are part of a province-wide trend. In fact, just 44 per cent of Ontario teaching graduates found employment in 2006, according to the OCT. And many lucky enough to get hired may spend three or more years in part-time positions. This trend isn't likely to change any time soon. The baby boom retirement, which will cause a shortage of workers in some areas in the years to come, has already happened in the teaching profession. Since many started their careers at a young age, they were able to retire in their 50s. The peak of their exits was between 1998 and 2002, when around 7,000 teachers got out of dodge each year.
"The baby boomers hit retirement some time back," said Frank McIntyre, manager of human resources at the OCT. Back then, needing more teachers to fill the gap, spaces were added in Ontario teacher's colleges, he said. However, today, retirement rates have dropped to around 5,000 each year. And here's where much of the surplus lies. Those wanting to teach "must have patience and flexibility," said McIntyre. Not surprisingly, based on figures given by school officials, there's also a surplus of people trying to get into teacher's colleges. Around 5,000 students applied to The University of Western Ontario's bachelor of education program this year. However, only 750 to 800 were accepted. Nipissing University is in a similar position. The school received 4,448 applications for its one-year-program, which has 810 spaces, and another 800 to 900 applicants for its 320-seat, five-year program.
Lakehead University got over 4,000 applications for its one and four-year teaching programs last year but only had room for around 710. However, the backlog may not be as bad as it seems. "It's fairly common to apply to more than one place," said John O'Meara, dean of LU's faculty of education. Nevertheless, there's plenty of aspiring teachers that are turned away. For thousands, leaving Ontario is the solution. In 2007, 1,600 did their schooling in overseas universities and another 489 went to another province, according to the OCT.
Also, so-called U.S. border colleges, -- mostly in New York state -- are bursting at the seams with Canucks. Sault Ste. Marie-native Josh Perin is a prime example. The 24-year-old recently completed a year of teacher's college at D'Youville College in Buffalo, N.Y. He's not alone, and the numbers are growing. Last year, 1,594 newly certified teachers in Ontario graduated from schools south of the border. This is up 200 per cent from the start of the decade. Unfortunately, for many of these students, there may not be a job waiting for them when they get back home. By the start of the following school year, just 19 per cent of 2006 border college graduates found teaching jobs when they returned to Canada, compared to 44 per cent of Ontario university graduates, according the the OCT. However, this doesn't bother Perin. When finished his year of placement teaching, the St. Mary's College graduate is confident that a job will be waiting for him " but probably not one in his hometown. It's just a matter of going where the jobs are." said Perin. "I don't mind moving north (to a remote community)."
Although teaching jobs in certain areas may be few and far between, there's still a shortage in some areas. "If you want to teach Grade 4 in London, you may have to supply for a few years, but if you're willing to move, you're going to find a job" said Margaret McNay, an associate dean in the UWO faculty of education. Meanwhile, many border college graduates are finishing their degrees with considerable debt. That's because, unlike Ontario universities, most border colleges with Canadian education programs are private, for-profit schools, and tuition can be four times as high. Perin's one-year away cost him over $18,000 in tuition alone. But he's not complaining. "I'd rather spend the extra money and be finished earlier (than wait to get into an Ontario school)" said Perin, who's working 60 hours a week this summer to pay off his loans. Although bleak, the situation isn't all-bad.
Aspiring French-language teachers seem to have it made. In 2006, 96 per cent of graduates found jobs for the following school year, and 64 per cent had regular, full-time positions by Spring 2007, according to the OCT. Graduates trained to teach technical studies, math and sciences also have an easier time finding work. But for the rest, many will be forced to play the waiting game. And some may play for a lot longer than they'd like.
The Local Board notes with appreciation, the work of Jim McLennan, Labour Market Information Analyst with Service Canada Cornwall, for the information provided in this document.