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11 Jan 2017

Where have all the Shop Teachers Gone?

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Shop class is in a pickle. We have shops vacant of students due to the lack of teachers trained to teach, or wanting to teach, in the shop and I do not see a solution on the horizon. I just heard that we train roughly 3000 teachers per year for 900 jobs annually, and only 20ish are Tech Ed teachers. Talk about a shortage of skilled labor.  I am going to share a bit about what I am seeing presently, and what I predict will most likely unfold, and that is a continued decrease in the number of students that get to take a shop class.

This is not about whether kids are signing up for shop class. It is evident that anywhere there is a shop teacher that enjoys what they are teaching and builds relationships with kids, the shops are fully subscribed. What I am talking about is what happens when that teacher retires? Or goes off on a leave? What is left behind are districts trying to use the same hiring practices for academic teachers, which are in an overabundance, by just posting a job at the last minute and expecting to find a suitable shop teacher ready and waiting to be hired. Following are what I am observing and what I see as a challenge and needs to be addressed.

Presently there is only one Technology Education teacher training institution in the province that trains 22 Tech Ed teachers per year. (There is not much interest in becoming a Technology Education teacher so even just one class is often a challenge to find people, let alone a second cohort). It is difficult to predict just how many shop teachers will be needed on a yearly basis, but in some districts they are relying on retired shop teachers to fill many positions or TOC. This would be an indication there is a shortage. Not every trained teacher is going to survive in the shop, so we must plan for a certain amount of occupation change for the people that leave the profession. This is just a common occurrence in any occupation, but we need to account for it.

Does anyone remember the accelerated program? A trade person only had to take 2 years off work to go to university, and then they were back making money. During the discussion around the Red Seal recognition most of us thought that it would bring something like the accelerated program back. Not even close. Through discussions with BCIT, this does not seem to be an option.

Typically when getting close to a retirement date, teachers usually put their notifications in with only less than a month notice. This can occur at any time, and is not quite as tough to fill a spot if there is a summer to find someone, but very challenging to find a replacement mid-year. This now turns into a reaction mode for districts scrambling to find someone within short notice. Often there is not someone locally who is suitable for the position and people have considerations and need time to plan moving to a new location. If we want our programs to continue to be successful we need to be more of team players, and spend some time working on succession planning for our jobs. This is something that I think we, as teachers, can work on by working through the BCTEA and letting people know that your job is potentially coming up in the near future. Having some planning time would go a long way in filling many positions. Up North I know that they are generally looking to other provinces to attract shop teachers to their regions.

The consequence of not having a qualified Tech Ed teacher available to teach in a school shop is a sad prospect in my view. The only other option is to allow non-Tech Ed trained teachers, or tradesman under letter of permission. All of the options bring fear of the “slippery slope” by allowing non-qualified people in to teach in the shop. Each of us has a different opinion and perspective on this, so I am not sure how likely that we could come to some agreement on proceeding as an organization around this. This same type of issue is why the Red Seal certification will not work. A clear understanding of the end goal is important to keep in focus.  If you presently see underutilized shops, or shops that do not have a teacher in them, we may see a lot more as it becomes more and more difficult to replace shop teachers.

Ideally, if you wish to do some succession planning by passing on the torch, the BCTEA could help connect new teachers or teachers that want a move, together. The BCTEA Facebook page is a great venue for this, as it is only seen by shop teachers. With the new court ruling there may be even more demand for qualified shop teachers. We should all be recruiting young people to consider becoming a Tech Ed teacher!!