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Students have trouble finding teaching jobs

April 3, 2008

UW-River Falls students from the College of Education and Professional Studies (COEPS) are finding it increasingly difficult to find teaching jobs close to home.

The demand for educators is moving slowly decreasing, according to the 2006 U.S. Educator Supply and Demand Report, which is the most recent released report.

The saturated local market for teachers is flooded with education majors from various UW System schools. In consequence, some UWRF graduates are being forced to either move away from home in search of full-time employment or settle on temporary positions.

Mike Martin, an academic advisor in COEPS, is aware of the market and said future teachers are as well.

“Students are coming into college understanding the market,” Martin said. “I am aware that more and more of my freshman are already aware of this.”

Students majoring in Elementary Education are especially conscious of the current local market.

“I face that fact everyday when I walk into my classes and see 30 or 40 other students,” Rachel Merrier, a sophomore majoring in elementary education said. “The demand is low right now and the supply is more than ample.”

In Wisconsin, the school district supply rating for the elementary level was in the well above average range, where the ratio of applicants to vacancies was 47.99, according to the 2006 Wisconsin Educator Supply and Demand Report. The 2007 report is not yet available, Wisconsin Department of Instruction Assistant Director Laurie Derse said in an e-mail interview.

The 2006 report suggests a variety of reasons for the limited vacancies, including a slight increase in the percentage of teachers ages 55-64 over the past few years. This may be due to the fact that school districts reported that some teachers delayed retirement in the wake of state budget cuts affecting education. Only 2.8 percent of the Wisconsin teaching stock in 2006 was between the ages of 20-24, while teachers 55 and older accounted for 14.5 percent, according to the report.

Despite the challenges the current market presents, some think the increasing supply of young teaching prospects can be beneficial as well.

“There’s a difference between no jobs and a highly competitive job market,” Martin said. “Competition can be healthy and lead applicants to strive harder.”

Students who aim to land a full-time job with greater ease can take on markets with high vacancies, like those found in the southern United States. Some states are even going as far as offering incentive packages for young teachers who wish to relocate, Martin said.

It’s hard for some future teachers to think of leaving home, but vacancies in other markets are causing them to rethink their future plans.

“I heard that the market for teachers is better in the southern U.S. as well as other areas,” Jill Lambach, a sophomore majoring in health and human performance said. “I would like to stay in the Twin Cities area to teach, but I would consider moving.”

With the current lack of demand in local areas, there are other alternatives besides relocation for teachers.

“Teaching is one of the few career fields where you can work without finding a job,” Martin said.

Because so many Wisconsin graduates in education will not move, many of them are substitute teaching, according to the 2006 U.S. Educator Supply and Demand Report.

Martin recognizes this trend, but doesn’t necessarily view it as a bad thing.

“Some people like the flexibility of substitute teaching,” Martin said. “It’s a unique opportunity to gain experience without having a full time position.”

Nick Giles-Lauer, a junior transfer student majoring in art education, is intrigued by the variation associated with substituting.

“It would be fun to be put into different situations with different students all the time,” Giles-Lauer said. “But I would rather have a steady classroom so I could make personal connections with my students over time.”

Substituting may also lead to bigger and better things in the future for graduates.

“By substituting, [the students] network within districts which helps increase their employment opportunities,” Martin said. “It’s not guaranteed, but it’s a helpful strategy.”

Accompanying the multiple advantages to substitute teaching are some substantial disadvantages.

“Pay is not at the same level as a full-time position, and often there aren’t any benefits provided,” Martin said.

Along with the opportunities teachers have in dealing with the challenges presented by the local market, a more under-the-radar tool exists: perseverance.

“Professors and deans in my major tell us that jobs will always be available.” Lambach said. “With a good portfolio, experience and communication skills it will be very possible to find a great teaching job.”