Teachers from countries around the world flocked to a recruiting fair held at London's Hilton Hotel last month to compete for job offers from over 50 international schools. Put together by the firm Search Associates, it is the last fair scheduled for the spring of this year – which means it is the last chance for teachers looking for overseas jobs for next fall to impress potential bosses.
Hundreds of teachers attended interviews over two days hoping for placements in places as diverse as Germany and Bangladesh. Those seeking employment represented an impressive range of home countries too; people came to the fairs to interview from Kenya, Texas and Singapore, among others.
Frida Jodin, a teacher from Sweden, described the process as "weird." This was her second fair but she's not quite used to an interview environment that includes the interviewer's suitcases on the hotel bed — far from the standard setting of a conference room or an office.
In countries like Canada and Scotland, there are more trained teachers than job openings, so there is a natural movement toward growing markets overseas. In cities like Chicago, where there have been large-scale teacher layoffs, mid-career educators are scrambling to get hired.
"People are having to look elsewhere for jobs," said Andrew Wigford, a former international teacher who started the Teachers International Consultancy in 2005. "However, once they get overseas, many do not want to go back. They find they have a great way of life, they get to move around and develop their career and it's quite an opportunity to travel the world."
According to The New York Times, although the pay varies by country, relative to the local cost of living it is close to what a teacher would earn staying at home. And that doesn't include some additional perks including free education for children and a more high-tech learning environment.
The competition for jobs is intense and growing. David Cope, who headed up Search Associates' fair this year, attempted to manage expectations when briefing teachers prior to the beginning of the interviewing grind. Most, he warned, would not land employment. However, the networking opportunities offered by fairs like this could lead to jobs in the future.
International school recruitment fairs have been taking place for more than 30 years. "There is a great level of interest in participating in our fairs and for the last few years we were at capacity," said Maria Lesser, director of membership services for the Council of International Schools. "Fairs still provide an opportunity for that face-to-face interaction, particularly important for teachers new to international teaching."
"It gives them the chance to see a lot of schools, meet several recruiters in one place and get a feel for what the opportunities and people are like working in international teaching."