States Fighting to Teach Tech Due to Instructor Shortage

A shortage of tech teachers could lead to problems in the future.

Timothy Healey
    Apr 17, 2017 12:05 PM  PT
States Fighting to Teach Tech Due to Instructor Shortage
author: Timothy Healey    

States across the country are struggling to offer technical training classes because they can't find qualified instructors to teach them, and that's causing employers headaches since they can't find skilled workers.

"The jobs are there, and we're not preparing our kids well enough to get into those jobs because the system has not allowed us to," Stephen Jones, the superintendent of schools in Little Falls, Minnesota, told the Associated Press. Jones told the AP his district has been able to avoid canceling classes but other, smaller districts in Minnesota haven't.

Still, on a national level, the largest shortage of teachers remains in special education, not career and technical education. However, two-thirds of the 50 states are reporting being short on teachers in at least one area of career education.

Some states, like Minnesota, have been short for 10 years while others like Maryland and New York have been short for over 20.

Minnesota and other states are trying to make it easier for employees in certain industries to get a teaching license, which would make it easier for them to teach full- or part-time. That won't solve another problem, though – teaching salaries are generally not competitive with the salaries that people can earn by working in the industry.

On top of that, it can be hard for schools located in small towns in rural areas to attract teachers, and students themselves are more apt to pursue other educational and career paths. Furthermore, high schools can only do so much – some programs require advanced education that can only be received at the college level.

"There's no one answer," Kate Kreamer, deputy executive director for Advance CTE, a nonprofit that represents the leaders of state career training programs, told the AP. "Although alternative certification is increasingly a strategy states are using, it's obviously insufficient in addressing the overall teacher shortage issue."

In Minnesota, many positions were filled by teachers hired on short-term special-permission licenses. Licensing rules are another obstacle in some places – Minnesota requires a bachelor's degree, for example, but many people employed in trade industries like automotive don't have that level of education.

Still, school districts are trying to increase the availability of these programs. Marion, Ohio, is one of those places.

"Simply graduating with a high school diploma is not enough in today's economy," Stephen Fujii, the director of college and career success for the Marion school district, told the AP.

Indeed, with certain industries, such as construction and healthcare, poised to grow in the coming years, and with the automotive industry ever-changing, there will be a need for employees in those fields – people who have technical training. The shortage of available training right now could make it hard for certain industries to fill positions in the future – and it gives students fewer options when it comes to a career path.

Huntington Herald-Dispatch