British Columbia

Understaffed Burnaby School District launches in-house diploma program for EAs

The Burnaby School District says there aren't enough graduates in B.C. to meet staffing demand for education assistants. So it's launching an in-house diploma program to train and recruit them.

District says post-secondary programs not producing enough graduates to meet demand for educational assistants

A teacher is seen in his classroom at Lord Roberts Elementary School in Vancouver, B.C. Schools across the province are facing a shortage of teachers and education assistants. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

School boards in B.C. have had to employ some unconventional methods to address a province-wide classroom staffing shortage. 

Embarking on a cross-country tour to recruit French immersion teachers. Hiring replacements without teaching certifications

And now, the Burnaby School District is launching an in-house diploma program to train and recruit education assistants. 

The district currently has 450 permanent and temporary education assistants, who provide support in classrooms and often tend to children with special needs. 

But it's still short of filling the spaces that were reinstated in a 2016 Supreme Court ruling, which found that the province had violated teachers' rights, moving the government to hire 3,500 teachers.

"It's been a bit of a challenge in terms of having the number of education assistants that we need," said Heather Hart, the assistant superintendent with the Burnaby School District, on CBC's The Early Edition

"We're continuing to hire people into positions as we go." 

Hart couldn't put a number to the shortage, but said the district was hoping to enroll up to 30 students in its first cohort. 

'Great interest' in program

A number of post-secondary programs, including Langara and Capilano University, already offer certificate programs for education assistants. They can take up to nine months of full-time study to complete.  

But those programs aren't producing enough graduates to meet the demand, Hart said. 

The district's course will start in July and end in November. Students will then jump into a four-week practicum. 

The course, which is tailor-made for the Burnaby district, will teach first aid, behaviour analysis and non-violent crisis intervention.

​Roughly 80 people have attended an information session about the diploma, Hart said. 

"We had lots of questions and people were very excited." 

With files from CBC's The Early Edition