Recruiting Tech Talent
Technological education partners have a message for auto service technicians, chefs, nurses and other skilled industry workers: Ontario has a severe shortage of Technological Studies teachers. The teaching profession needs you and so does society.

By Helen Dolik
Photography by Mark Stegel and John Smee

Ryan Wineberg used to get a thrill from a career producing TV commercials. Now, he gets his rush in the classroom.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the light bulb going off in the head of a student,” says Wineberg, head of Technological Education at Markville Secondary School in Markham and a Communications Technology teacher.

Wineberg developed the first Communications Technology program for Markville Secondary, where students learn digital video production, digital radio and audio production, and television production.

He created three classroom labs, complete with the latest computer and digital equipment used to integrate curriculum expectations with technology. Students learn and work with various leading-edge and industry standard software applications. He teaches students in a hands-on, practical classroom-lab where students learn by doing.

Enrolment in the popular Communications Technology program has jumped from six per cent of the school population to almost 40 per cent in just three years.

“Its rapid growth and popularity are indicative of the value parents and students place on using and learning with technology in today’s classrooms,” says Wineberg.

“The kids are saying ‘we like technology. This is what ‘We want to learn about for our future. This is what’s important to us. This is what we see as being valuable to our future.’”

Teacher Demand

In 2000, there were 4,712 qualified tech teachers in the province and the College’s retirement forecast predicts that 37 per cent—or 1,747—will leave the profession by 2005. Fully 58 per cent—or 2,738 tech teachers—will retire by 2010.

A Ministry of Education survey for a 1998-1999 Task Force on Teacher Renewal showed 48 tech studies vacancies unfilled as of November 30, 1998. The ministry issued 271 Letters of Permission for tech teachers in the 2000-2001 school year and 146 were approved for the 2001-2002 school year as of November 2001.

The award-winning Wineberg serves a role model of what the teaching profession aims to attract. He earned a Radio and Television Arts Degree from Ryerson University in Toronto. He’s produced TV commercials, performed voice-overs in radio and possesses a talent for cartoon voices and accents. His work experience is a bonus when it comes to teaching. He truly knows what makes a good commercial because he’s worked on them. It’s almost like having a guest speaker who’s an expert on something as your teacher.

What drew Wineberg to teaching? The turning point occurred when he worked in the advertising development department at Procter & Gamble. One of his duties included training executives in video production.

Spirit of Co-operation

A negative is turned into a positive when a university, industry and labour partners, local school boards, and a teachers’ federation work together to address the Technological Education teacher shortage.

Looming layoffs at a company that makes electronic car components served as a catalyst for a university pilot program that is helping to fill the Technological Studies teacher void.

OISE/UT launched a two-year pilot program this summer called the Technological Studies Apprenticeship Program. The program aims to make the career change from factory to classroom for skilled workers as flexible and as painless to the wallet as possible.

Visteon Corporation’s Markham plant that makes automotive components and systems such as anti-theft devices and air bag parts was slated to shut down. A portion of the business was eventually sold and the new owner, AutoLiv, took over July 1. AutoLiv was expected to keep about 300 of 1,200 employees, including approximately 35 of 120 skilled trades people. Other workers were being transferred. However, that still left almost 100 skilled workers with pink slips in their hands.

“It was an opportune time to get them thinking about a career switch to education,” says Sara McKitrick, Technological Studies co-ordinator at OISE/UT.

OISE/UT, industry and labour partners, the local school boards and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation worked together to turn a negative into a positive for the workers and address the Technological Education teacher shortage.

The Technological Studies Apprenticeship Program targets highly skilled candidates from industries that are related to subjects where teachers are in short supply. The program attracts them with a concentrated, flexible and
modular teacher education program. It’s designed so that highly skilled teacher candidates with technological expertise can enter the profession without incurring a lengthy loss of income.

The program consists of two sixweek classroom sessions, two practicum sessions that are 20 days each, and an internship. The classroom sessions are being held off campus at Sir William Mulock Secondary School in Newmarket, which proved convenient to this particular group of teacher candidates.

“The program is not a quick fix or fast-tracking,” McKitrick says. “We have a quality program, we’re just making the pilot program flexible and

OISE/UT also runs a one-year teacher education program for Technological Studies. It begins in September.

Making a Difference
Gord Buch, an industrial mechanic, is one of nine Visteon employees that began classes in the pilot apprenticeship program in mid-June. There are 27 people in the program.

Buch began at Visteon in 1985 and toiled for the company for 17 years. In his spare time, he volunteered at his children’s public school library, at high school Technological Education classes and served on the local school council, where he is currently the vicechair. His wife is a teacher.

In January 2001, Visteon workers learned the plant would be closing down within 18 to 24 months and no one would have a job. Many of the workers had joined the company while young and had 15 to 20 years experience under their belts. While they weren’t over the hill, looking for work in the job market was an eye-opener for some.

In the fall of 2001, Buch saw a notice on the board at work about this potential program to become a Technological Education teacher.

Buch, who’d never really considered teaching before, called the contact number. “I felt kind of trapped with only one profession. I wanted to pursue other options,” he says.

The company later told employees one-quarter of jobs would still be available. Buch is one of the lucky ones. He’s been asked to stay with the new company. But he’s covering all bases. He’s staying on with AutoLiv and attending the teacher education program. He’s using all his holiday time and securing a leave of absence. He says he will complete the program and he figures he’ll have a better idea which path— factory or classroom—his life will take afterwards.

“It’s nice to make a difference,” he says. “When you go to work in a factory, you are just a number. You may produce a car radio or air bag module but you’re really anonymous in what you’re doing.

“When you’re teaching, you have the opportunity to make a difference in young people’s lives and give something back.”

“I noticed the teaching part was almost second nature,” he says. “I got a higher level of satisfaction from sharing knowledge rather than just using it.”

So he decided to go back to school and earned his Bachelor of Education and Masters of Arts in Education. It was a natural transition for him to come into the classroom.

Should Be Fun

“Learning should be fun,” he says. “It can be hard, it can be difficult, it can be challenging and it can even be stressful, but it should be fun. I like to have fun and the kids do, too. We’re a good team, the kids and I, we both want to enjoy what we’re learning. We learn together.”

Wineberg graduated from OISE/UT in 1999 and has been teaching at Markville for three years. His department has five other teachers. In his first year of teaching, the CBC and the Royal Canadian Mint held a national contest inviting schools to produce a TV commercial to combat drinking and driving among teens. The message was ‘don’t drink and drive, call a cab’. A group of Wineberg’s students produced an entry as an extracurricular project. They won best commercial in Ontario and fifth-best in Canada. The best part is yet to come.

The Mint came out with a special quarter, the 2000 June Harmony Coin, and gave it to high school graduates in Canada. The point was to use the quarter to call a cab. The Mint decided to launch the coin at Markville Secondary and broadcast the school’s commercial live on the web and on CBC television. The coin, which is in regular circulation, features the Queen on one side and a maple leaf on the flip side. But if you look closely, the maple leaf is actually several young people holding hands. The youths are Wineberg’s students.

“They were on cloud nine,” says Wineberg, of his forever immortalized students. “That’s priceless.”

The icing on the cake was that the following year, a group of his students captured the No. 1 spot for best public service announcement T V commercial in Ontario in a different contest sponsored by the Canadian Association for Responsible Gambling.

The York Region District School Board recently recognized his efforts, awarding Wineberg the Technology Incentive Award. It’s given to teachers who use exemplary methods of integrating technology and curriculum expectations.

Five Universities Offer Program

There were 142 tech teachers-to-be enrolled at Ontario faculties of education in 2000-2001. Five universities offer Technological Studies teacher education programs: Brock University, Queen’s University, University of Ottawa, The University of Western Ontario and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).

The University of Ottawa offers a French-language Technological Studies program. There is no limit to the amount of candidates the University of Ottawa can take into the program but the most Bernard Cousineau, the Technological Studies program co-ordinator, has had is 22 people. “We always nlook for candidates,” he says.

The university advertises in community papers throughout Ontario. The Tech Studies program portion on the University of Ottawa’s web site tries to entice potential applicants by asking: “Do you wish to transmit the passion you feel for your work to high school students aged 12 to 20 years old, and help them becomen productive members of today’s society?”

So if any teachers have friends or relatives they think might be interested in a career switch, pass the word around. The faculties of education look for qualified applicants with a passion for technology who have people skills and a commitment to youth. If the person has creative tendencies, it helps. “Often people who have done interesting things make interesting teachers,” says Brian Perkins, Technological Education administrative assistant in the faculty of education at Queen’s University. To teach technological subjects, a person doesn’t need to have an undergraduate degree. But they must have experience and competence in their field. They need a secondary school diploma, five years of work experience in the technology subject area and the one-year teacher education program.

The Ontario College of Teachers is working with its education partners to address the tech teacher shortage. The College met with representatives from the faculties of education and the Ontario Council for Technology Education (OCTE) to develop a communications strategy for the coming year to recruit well-qualified Technological Studies candidates into teacher education programs. This article in Professionally Speaking, a fall news release and other contact with the media were discussed.

Shop Doors Closing

OCTE is calling for strong, consistent, accountable and sustainable Technological Education programs for all students in Ontario schools. “We’re racing against the clock, you can hear the shop doors closing all over the province,” says OCTE co-chair Michael Scott.

“In some cases, you can’t even get the doors open,” adds John Kish, OCTE cochair. “You just can’t get tech teachers.”

Scott says there’s a severe shortage. Salary is often a stumbling block. Starting salaries for teachers range from $30,000 to $35,000. One industry worker told Scott: “I pay that in income tax.” For others, it can mean a $20,000 or more drop in salary. Some tradespeople earn six-figure salaries.

Technological education underwent a major overhaul in the mid-1990s. The trade-specific focus changed to a broadening of the scope of technological education. Over 50 courses, from auto body to cosmetology, were funnelled into seven broad-based technology areas: Communications Technology, Construction Technology, Hospitality Services, Manufacturing Technology, Personal Services, Technological Design, Transportation Technology.

For more information about Technological Education, visit these web sites:

Ontario College of Teachers:> Thinking About Becoming a Teacher
Brock University:
Queen’s University:
University of Western Ontario:
University of Ottawa:
Ontario Council for Technology Education:
Ontario Universities Application Centre: > Professional Applications Ontario Faculties of Education Application Booklet

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