Demand for tech teachers rises in Clark County amid national shortage

A shortage exists of qualified career and technical education teachers nationwide, according to a new report, even as demand for qualified educators is increasing, including in Clark County.

Educational leaders in Clark County said the shortage isn’t as pressing in this region, although some positions are harder to attract because potential applicants can often earn more money by remaining in their technical field.

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The issue is important as some industries face shortages of trained workers and schools push students to explore local careers earlier, said Ashleigh McFadden, state policy manager for Advance Career and Technical Education.

The agency is a nonprofit that represents state leaders responsible for secondary, post-secondary and adult career technical education. Technical educators teach in a variety of fields, ranging from agriculture to cyber security and automotive technology.

“We’re in a place where budgets are only going to get tighter and there are going to be more and more demands on teachers and schools,” McFadden said. “The big message is to think beyond the traditional methods of getting industry experts into the classroom.”

Information from the Ohio Department of Education showed as recently as 2014, Ohio had more than 120,300 career tech students, about 22 percent of students in high school statewide.

Nationally the shortage of technical teachers is part of an overall shortage of teachers in general, McFadden said. However schools often face additional challenges to attract and retain qualified technical educators, she said.

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The number of technical-specific teacher preparation programs nationwide was slashed 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to the Advance CTE report. It has continued to decline in part due to less interest in teaching as a profession, the report says. 

“Meanwhile, schools across the country are struggling to manage the wave of teachers preparing for retirement,” the report says.

Schools and other entities are also working to expose students to a variety of career fields long before graduation as well. Exposing students to career and tech courses early on can help students determine what career’s they are interested in, McFadden said. The Chamber of Greater Springfield has organized a career fair for area eighth-graders for the past several years to expose students from fields ranging from agriculture to manufacturing and health care.

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The challenge isn’t as acute in Clark County, said Rick Smith, superintendent at the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center. The CTC provides courses both in traditional fields like English and science, as well as carpentry, animal science and engineering.

The CTC employs 34 career and tech teachers and 16 academic teachers. The school has had little turnover among its career tech staff over the years, which Smith said has been helpful. The biggest challenge, he said, is that skilled workers in many career fields often earn more than they would in education.

“While we may get 25 candidates for a regular educational teaching position, we usually get a quarter of that for an open career tech teaching position,” Smith said.

In one recent case, Smith said the CTC received only six applications for an open position, but all six candidates were highly qualified so it was still a good fit.

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Districts are allowed to hire technical teachers who haven’t completed a teacher preparation program, as long as the candidate has a high school diploma, can prove at least five years of full-time work experience in the field and completes an approved pre-service career-technical education program. It takes a special person to teach career tech because it can be demanding, Smith said.

“It’s tougher for instructors in career tech because they didn’t get into their career field to get into teaching,” Smith said.

To address the national shortage of CTE teachers, the Advance CTE report recommends states coordinate a variety of policies. That could include working more closely with employers and developing programs that allow industry experts to serve in non-instructional roles for students, including mentors and coaches.

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