It started late March, as one of the local boards I cover released a statistical report on its hiring for the fall of 2009. Depressing numbers, in a board with almost 8,000 employees, that so few were hired, and virtually none hired to full-time permanent contracts. But such is the reality, as highlighted by every year's survey as completed by the Ontario College of Teachers-- the most recent is in the latest edition of their members' magazine. The quote that caused concern?
"This concerns me, working in a faculty of education, we're producing 700 grads every year and this is discouraging for them," (Thames Valley District School Board) London trustee and University of Western Ontario faculty Peter Jaffe said.As happens in our chain from time-to-time, the story was picked up by the Free Press in London and on the day it published there I received a call from University of Western Ontario faculty of education dean Julia O'Sullivan's office, requesting an interview. I never turn down an interview, so we chatted, along with associate dean Margaret McNay, about the
(Executive superintendent of human resources services Mike) Sereda responded his creative advice for those folks or others would be to seek other options before education.
"There's a glut in the market and there will be for some time. If you're really committed to teaching, go overseas," Sereda said. "There are a large number of teachers chasing a small number of jobs and that won't change in the near future."
The deans were upset with the lead paragraph, which they insisted misrepresents the reality. O'Sullivan pointed to how there are still plenty (in the millions) of teachers needed to provide basic primary education to every child around the world. They spoke a lot about how their graduates are finding success in overseas employment, or those willing to go remote or north to seek jobs. For those who stick around, the faculty is attempting to cater to their interests by offering more course sections in those areas where teachers have a better probability of getting full-time contracts (French-language, technological education). The ensuing article ran a few days later, and I haven't noticed whether it was picked up by other sister papers.
TheLocal statistics show, however, that the majority of teachers hired by local boards -- even to the supply teaching or part-time contracts that dominate available positions -- are UWO grads. The numbers don't correlate to the numbers who graduate on an annual basis, but that doesn't change the overall need for qualified teachers, O'Sullivan and McNay said."We're very conscious that for many graduates, while teaching locally may be their first choice, they're happy to do so internationally, or north, or west before they get that dream job at a school in London," McNay said. "They're willing to go elsewhere and they want to take advantage of their Bachelor of Education to travel."
The deans also seemed to suggest I really didn't understand this issue-- well, as a journalist, I think I understand it perfectly well as that's another craft where thousands leave post-secondary programs with a piece of paper in their hands that says journalism yet have no hope of working in the field. That was the case 10 years ago (yikes, has it been that long already?) when I walked across a dias to collect my own piece of paper, and it's only gotten starker since then. That doesn't stop an almost endless supply of positions in rural western Canada or the north to work at some small community paper where you're the editor, reporter, photographer and even part-time sales rep working endless hours for a pittance and on a quick path to burnout... So yeah, I get it.
Given the absolute surplus of available talent, it's time, really, for teachers' colleges in Ontario to consider cutting back enrolment, or catering more of it to the candidates who apply with a desire to seek the teaching positions where they actually exist.