Career Prospects Are Much Brighter as the New Century
Were about to
enter the best years in a long time for teachers to
begin or advance their careers in Ontario.
Ironically, the doom and gloom of recent years about
job prospects may be driving many of the
provinces best students away from the
profession just when prospects are brightest.
By Frank McIntyre and Laverne
Pessimistic talk about a surplus
of teachers in Ontario is out-of-date. The sad
stories of the tough times some new teachers had
finding their first teaching positions in Ontario are
quickly changing to anecdotes about students
receiving job offers as early as March for the next
retirements have been rising steadily over the past
several years. As this trend continues, surplus
graduates of the mid-90s will find jobs and new grads
will have more and more opportunities in elementary
and secondary teaching all across the province.
for the word on the street to catch up with this
swing in demand for new teachers.
policy, and the health of public finances
have created a roller coaster ride of boom
and bust in the market for new teachers in
The 1950s and 1960s saw
massive growth in school enrolment with the
baby boom, post-war economic expansion and
immigration. Ontarios dynamic economy
and societys commitment to education
led to a growth in school enrolment among the
highest in the world.
K 13 enrolment rose from 1.5 million students
in the early 1960s to more than two million by 1970.
education enrolment doubled to a peak of 14,000 in
the late 1960s after some years of panic hiring with
special short preparation courses and the hiring of
teachers trained elsewhere. Teacher shortages of the
1960s quickly turned into surpluses as school
enrolment declined again with the baby bust of the
Unlike the more
sustained growth of the previous decades, during the
1970s and early 1980s Ontarios economy cycled
through bursts of recession and short-term growth.
Migration to Ontario slowed. But, luckily for
teachers, government support of schools remained
strong in those years.
were years of dramatic improvements in
classroom support in Ontario, especially for
the elementary years. Pupil-to-teacher ratios
declined from 25 to 1 in 1970, to 18 to 1 by
the start of the 1990s. Secondary schools
experienced a parallel but less dramatic
increase in teachers relative to students.
Public policy supported lower pupil to
teacher ratios. Funding was extended to
complete the separate school system.
Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten programs
the enrolment decline meant this period was a lean
one for new teacher grads.
coaster pointed skyward once more in 1985 as the baby
boom echo the large cohort of offspring of the
post-war boomers reached elementary school
age. A special early retirement incentive induced
large numbers of teachers to leave teaching earlier
than planned. A brief teacher shortage emerged again
before teacher education programs geared into action
to produce more graduates and once more correct the
supply and demand balance.
governments at all levels have drastically tightened
the purse strings and Ontarios schools have
felt the impact.
Over the past
three years, pupil-to-teacher ratios have increased
once more. Class sizes are growing and boards are
cancelling lower demand courses and programs deemed
to be "non-essential." Teachers with
assignments outside the classroom are a quickly
boom echo enrolment growth, new teacher recruitment
dropped sharply in the mid-1990s as school boards
scrambled to balance budgets.
travels fast. Teacher grads of 1993 through 1995 were
especially hard hit by the bear market in Ontario
teaching jobs. Recruiters from California, New
Zealand and elsewhere had a field day enticing many
of our best and brightest new teachers to meet their
numbers of school board staff receive surplus notices
each spring, its big news. But the media pay
less attention to the fact that most of the same
staff secure a position by the start of the next
school year when enrolments firm up and retirements
and other departures take effect.
The bad news of
no teaching jobs passes among new graduates,
teachers, their families and friends. The shortage of
jobs is now accepted as gospel throughout the
province and the evidence of this is clear in teacher
education has been favoured for many years with an
abundance of bright, energetic and motivated
potential recruits. Our universities normally receive
three to five applications for each teacher education
place available. But from a high of 25,000 in 1992,
teacher education applications plummeted to about
7,000 in 1997. Some universities may not find enough
qualified students to meet their plans for this fall.
unfortunate that perceptions often lag behind changes
in realities. This decline in interest in teaching as
a career comes just when Ontario is about to embark
on the most massive turnover in its teaching force in
large numbers of teachers hired in the 1960s. This
generation is now reaching the end of their teaching
careers in increasingly large numbers. In the
mid-1980s annual teacher retirements in Ontario were
in the 1,000 to 2,000 range. By 1990 the number rose
to 4,500. Retirements continue to mount with
projections approaching 6,000 by 2005.
Over the next
nine years more than 47,000 teaching positions will
open up in Ontario as two out of every five teachers
This signals a
period of unprecedented renewal for schools in
Ontario, so the sharply reduced interest in teaching
careers among university students is troublesome.
How long can
school boards staff vacancies from the surplus of
teacher grads of the mid-1990s? How many of these
will have gone to other countries to teach or on to
other careers? Should universities accept into
teacher education most everyone who applies with
minimal qualifications? Can graduates of other
provinces and countries make up for the shortfall in
interest in teaching in Ontario?
Some of these
questions have been addressed empirically. In our
1996 study for the Ontario Deans of Education, we
projected a range of low and high demand for new
teachers in Ontario through 2004. The study took into
account a number of factors that might affect teacher
We looked at
enrolment growth, teacher retirements, other
attrition in full-time teachers, the loss of Grade
13, less support for age three-to-five schooling,
shifts of non-classroom teachers back to the
classroom, as well as further reductions in funding
that might result in increased class sizes.
No matter how
we ran the assumptions on these factors, the range of
high and low demand projection showed an average need
for 12,000 to 13,000 replacement full-time teachers
annually in Ontario through to 2004.
appears surprisingly high. It includes large numbers
of teachers who leave full-time teaching each year
for reasons other than retirement. They may move to
part-time and supply teaching, to non-teaching
occupations or to family responsibilities. They may
step out of teaching for a time to renew themselves.
Some of these same teachers move back into full-time
teaching in another year, but not as many as leave
additional movement into account, there is a net
requirement of 7,500 to 8,500 new teachers each year
are reinforced by a 1997 Statistics Canada study.
That study addressed retirements alone and did not
take into account the other attrition factors we
examined. Even with this understatement of demand,
Stats Can notes a balance of teacher supply and
demand in Ontario through 2005 with teacher education
remaining at present capacity levels. The federal
study noted that the early retirement boom were
experiencing in Ontario is delayed and less marked in
We know now in
a general way that new elementary and secondary
teacher demand will rise significantly in most
regions of the province and in most teaching fields.
It will be
possible to refine these projections in the future
with the single Teacher Identification Number that is
being adopted by the Ontario College of Teachers,
boards of education and the Ontario Teachers
Pension Plan Board. This single identifier will
enhance our ability to anticipate program, language
and regional teacher shortages.
teachers will have much better job market
information. Teachers will have more information on
emerging leadership and program shortages to assist
in their own growth and career planning.
information will assist teacher education programs in
their planning. Researchers will be able to focus on
important questions such as the varied reasons for
teachers temporary movement out of full-time
teaching each year and for the non-retirement
departures from the profession.
surplus of the mid-1990s in Ontario will readily be
absorbed over the next few years. Career prospects
are very bright indeed for new teachers in Ontario as
the new century dawns. Even Ontario teacher
candidates graduating before 2000 can look forward to
excellent prospects in their home province.
for teaching positions will be brisk for a couple
more years as grads of recent years settle into
permanent positions. New grads may have to accept
supply teaching jobs, limited contracts and second
choice locations for a while.
who are flexible in their search for a first position
and take a somewhat longer time horizon can likely
look forward before long to a permanent job in a
teaching assignment and school that suits them.
The two out of
five Ontario teachers who will retire over the next
nine years will vacate many positions of leadership.
The next two decades will be good years for teachers
who want to be department heads, vice-principals and
the best, brightest and most committed young
professionals of this new generation. The challenges
of reduced resources, increased enrolment, changing
curriculum and organizational turmoil will require
this infusion of new and talented energies as many
The decline in
interest in teaching is based on out-of-date
information about employment prospects. Teaching in
Ontario will be a viable career for many of the new
generation in this province. Spread the good news.
Frank McIntyre is the Ontario
College of Teachers Human Resources Consultant and a
former Assistant Dean at York Universitys
Faculty of Education. Dr. Laverne Smith is Dean of
Education at Nipissing University and a member of the
Ontario College of Teachers. A former Dean of the
University of New Brunswick, she has contributed
broadly to research in Canadian teacher education and
The full text of the report to the Ontario
Association of Deans of Education, Teacher Supply and
Demand: The Coming Decade in Ontario.