After long dry spell for jobs, B.C. teaching programs see increase in applications
UBC teacher training program sees uptick in interest following Supreme Court ruling
Jay Rudolph remembers the exact moment when a landmark Supreme Court decision on class size and composition in B.C. school rooms was announced last fall.
Rudolph was enrolled in the University of British Columbia's 12-month teacher education program at the time and was in a room full of teachers during a professional development day.
"When we got the news, we basically were just dancing around the room high-fiving each other," Rudolph said.
The decision meant the province would have to provide new resources and — most importantly for education students like Rudolph — would likely result in a hiring spree.
As of last week, hundreds of teaching positions were still unfilled across the province.
New education graduates in B.C. have long faced years of substitute teaching before being offered a permanent teaching position, unless they were in high-demand specialties like French immersion.
But the new glut of jobs has resulted in an uptick in interest in what has long been seen as a demanding but satisfying career with many perks.
A challenging time in education
At 43, Rudolph isn't many people's idea of a typical education graduate.
But the single mother and semi-professional artist comes from a teaching family and had long thought about becoming a teacher herself.
"Education is really important to me and I know that it can have a profound influence on young people's lives," she said.
She finally took the plunge last year, enrolling at UBC. She braced herself for years of underemployment, her affordable home in a housing co-op and a frugal lifestyle on hand in case she lacked work.
"I guess [teaching] was always in the back of my mind as a possibility. But I also knew that at that time it was really challenging in education," Rudolph said.
Now, less than a month after graduation, Rudolph has already been offered work as a teacher on call with the Vancouver School Board. And she's hopeful she'll soon get a contract as part of the district's latest round of postings.
'They see opportunity'
Wendy Carr, UBC's Associate Dean of Teacher Education, says the message about job opportunities for teachers has registered. Last year, Carr's program accepted an additional 50 students, for a total of 750.
"For anybody who's been considering teaching as a career, they see opportunity, they see the possibility of employment where in previous years it's been a bit of a wait for some people," Carr said.
A UBC survey shows that 74 per cent of the class of 2010 was employed full time two years after graduation. Of those who were working, 79 per cent were either employed as teachers or in the education sector.
UBC professor emeritus Charles Ungerleider says education faculties across the country have always experienced ebbs and flows in response to various conditions.
One of those is the economy — during an upswing those with an education in specialized teaching fields like mathematics and physics realize they can make better money elsewhere.
But Ungerleider says another big factor is the perceived over- and under-supply of teachers, especially for those specialty fields.
Still, he says enrollment in education programs in Canada is generally pretty steady. In part, that's because people are often drawn by a desire to better society and influence future generations.
Ungerleider says those becoming teachers today have no illusions about the long hours they'll be putting in on the job — he points to statistics that shows an average 50-hour work week for teachers across Canada.
"Teaching is very satisfying but it's very, very demanding work. It can, if you let it, get out of hand — consume your life," he said.
However, Ungerleider also points out that teaching in the public sector is one of the rare jobs that offer a potentially lifelong career with benefits and a pension — which may be why enrollment at UBC has been steadily increasing over the last few years.
'A great time to be going into education'
Those perks may not have been the first priority for a new teacher like Rudolph, but it was certainly a factor for her as a single mother.
"The idea of having a contract and having benefits and having that stability is very attractive as a parent, for sure," she said.
As the child of a teacher, Rudolph knows the hard work that lies ahead — and she is looking forward to that challenge. But she says the Supreme Court decision has definitely put a more positive spin on her future.
"It's a great time to be going into education and I'm excited about it," she said.