Australia Juggling Glut of Teachers and Foreign Competition

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Despite a growing number of unemployed teachers in Australia, foreign teachers remain at work in the country on 457 visas.

Information on those visas by Fairfax Media found that as many as 3,600 people are currently working as teachers on the 457 visa, primarily in early childhood centers.

Rules pertaining to the visas state that employers may only use them if they “cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work” required.

Meanwhile, half of all of those to graduate from teaching programs this year in the country, about 8,000, had not found permanent employment four months after graduation.

“The fact that early childhood employers are resorting to importing teachers on 457 visas when there is a huge oversupply of graduate teachers will not come as a surprise to anybody involved in the early childhood sector,” said Lyndal Ryan, national vice-president of United Voice.

“At the root of this problem are the inadequate wages in the sector. There is a well-established pattern of qualified teachers working in ECEC [early childhood education and care] until they can get a position in the school system because schools pay better, the hours are shorter and there are longer holidays.”

At the same time, hundreds of millions in government funding is being spent on teacher education programs that are graduating teachers who then cannot find work, instead joining the over 44,000 other teachers on a waiting list for employment opportunities.

Stephen Dinham, a professor of education at the University of Melbourne, recently accused the universities and countries in the college of using the field as a “cash cow” by creating teachers when there was no hope of gaining employment.

“It is quite unethical to let people train in an occupation profession they are not going to be employed in,” he said.  There are quite a number of non-traditional colleges that are getting into the teacher training business through being registered providers. This is adding to the pool, particularly for primary and early childhood teaching.  Moving those resources to filling vacancies in secondary maths, science, languages and special education could be fairly cost neutral.  We need proper workforce planning rather than people saying it is entirely a university decision as to how many people they train.”

Last year, 6,966 students graduated in New South Wales from teacher preparation programs, but only 2,200 jobs were available in government schools.  Of those, 1,000 were advertised to other teachers, adding to the competition.

The Education Department gives priority to new teachers, although work is only guaranteed to those who have scholarships.

At the same time, the government unveiled its new plan to help fund and run technical schools in an effort to create a credible plan to combat the growing unemployment problem in the country.  There is currently $500,000 set aside for the schools, which would supply students with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in technical subjects, and would actively involve local employers.