Back to school: Laid-off oilpatch professionals fuel spike in applications at U of C's education faculty

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Back to school: Laid-off oilpatch professionals fuel spike in applications at U of C's education faculty

Back to school: Laid-off oilpatch professionals fuel spike in applications at U of C's education faculty

The Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary is seeing a spike in applications as professionals laid off during the economic downturn look for new careers.

Applications from prospective teachers have grown 40 per cent in two years, partly because of an increase in highly educated oilpatch professionals — such as engineers and geophysicists — looking to enter the program, said associate dean Dianne Gereluk.

"What's different about this is that we see a number of individuals who are in mid-career change and an increase in applications partly because of the economic downturn in the province," she said.

"The school districts are incredibly excited by the quality of future teachers that are coming in to these schools."

Gereluk said some of the applicants already have master's degrees. The stiffer competition means education has become one of the toughest faculties to get in to on campus.

Ryan McComiskey has a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, but like thousands of other Albertans the oilpatch veteran lost his job after the price of oil dropped.

Finding himself at a career crossroads, he decided to return to school to become a teacher.

"As soon as I made the decision to change, though, several people, especially family, said that they saw it in me and that they weren't surprised at all," he said.

McComiskey, who is now completing his first practicum at a Calgary junior high school, says he likes working with the students.

Eventually he'd like to teach high school math and physics.

He won't be returning to engineering.

"I think I really found something I can do for the next 20 years and be happy with."

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