Canada first experienced a surplus of primary and secondary school teachers in 2005; although this process was reflected across the country, the situation was illustrated most clearly in Ontario. Between 1998 and 2002, Ontario witnessed a record number of retiring teachers, which created a dramatic increase in new teachers when many young people flocked to fill the newly empty positions.
By 2005, the teacher surplus, along with the resulting unemployment and underemployment for many young teachers, had become evident. With declining numbers of student registrations and government cuts to education, many first-year teachers were forced to take part-time or supply teaching employment, or jobs in remote areas of the country or overseas, often in occupations for which they didn't train.
As a result of the crisis, however, the number of registrations to teaching programs has dropped as students pursue other professions. Coupled with a slight increase in the number of retirees, statistics show levels of unemployment and underemployment have been decreasing since 2013.
Addressing the Crisis
Some teaching advocates have promoted the idea of lobbying governments at all levels to increase funding for K12 education, thereby opening up spots for more teachers. Suggestions of improving access to education in rural areas and First Nations reserves, and implementing government-funded programs for overseas teaching employment, have also been made.
Universities and other providers of teaching programs have, to varying degrees, limited enrollment to control the supply of new teachers. While this has helped stem the future supply of new teachers, there are still many thousands of recent graduates and veteran teachers alike who are without full-time employment.
The Role of the School Boards
School boards are limited by the amount of funding they receive from the provincial governments, but a new report found they could improve efforts by clarifying the application process for new teachers.
The report, conducted by the Ontario College of Teachers, showed that while over 70 percent of graduates understood school board application processes, only 46 percent said they were informed about how to begin supply teaching — an important element of employment for new teachers.
Furthermore, only 29 percent said school board administration made it easy to find information on available jobs, and only 52 percent said the school boards kept them informed about their job application status. In effect, school boards were asked to improve transparency and new teacher engagement.
While the crisis in teacher supply and demand remains a fixture of the Canadian labour market, recent figures point to promising trends. New graduates of university teaching programs still face an uphill battle to obtain full employment, but the number of challenges looks set to recede.
Want to find out how you can make sure you're implementing the best processes at your board? Take a look at the 2015 Essential Guide to Improving School Board Operations.