Schools and future teachers sized each other up Wednesday at Memorial University's annual teacher recruitment.
Bottom line: Finding permanent work in St. John's right out of school isn't likely, but students' odds of landing a job after graduation — anywhere in the province — improve if they specialize in French, science and math.
Andrew Hickey, senior education officer with human resources with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, told CBC that the St. John's market is tight — and has been for years.
Young teachers realize they have better opportunity to secure permanent employment if they go to smaller centres first, he said.
"We are seeing more of our younger teachers going to the rural areas and staying there for a couple of years and then applying for positions back in our bigger centres, but at the same time we do also experience some of our teachers end up staying in our small communities. They enjoy the lifestyle, they make connections, and they do end up staying there."
There are 1,600 teachers on the substitute list, and most of those are experienced teachers, said Hickey.
Still, the district is hiring for several hundred positions; the first big vacancy list will be issued Friday, and then every week after that through the spring and summer.
Opportunities in Labrador
And even though job availability is better in rural areas, the district is still having trouble recruiting for Labrador, especially along the coast.
But Greg Quilty, principal of Sheshatshiu Innu School, near Happy Valley-Goose Bay, has an ace up his sleeve when he recruits for the Innu schools in that community and Natuashish.
"Generally we pitch the idea of Labrador life, and how exciting and how beautiful the culture is and the land and just the lifestyle in Labrador," he said. "It's a great place to go if you're an outdoors person."
There are challenges in getting people to come north, he said, but added that they took in many resumés Wednesday from people who are coming to Labrador anyway, either because they're from there or have a partner moving there for work.
Patricia Greene, senior education officer with the province's francophone school district, said they recruit from a much smaller pool than their English counterparts.
But she said those students who fit their needs — highly proficient in French, not necessarily francophone — find a lot of opportunity.
"They may be specialists in math as well as French, so we have opportunities for that in our high schools as well," she said.
"It's always a challenge, because our colleagues in the English district look for people who are in French immersion with the high quality of French, and outside the province. A number of people will leave MUN and go outside province to work, and that's just the reality."
Preference is to stay close to home
Debbie Toope, senior education officer in human resources in the English school district, said Newfoundland and Labrador holds its own in recruitment.
"Many students say their first preference would be to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador," she said. "They love being home, they have a lot of friendships and relationships and their families here."
Student Victoria LeDrew, who's still in the middle of her university studies, spent Wedesday "scoping out" what the job market looks like, especially in French immersion programs.
"Right now I'm looking into primary, elementary, French immersion programs, and the high demand right now is very intriguing," she said. She's trying to tailor her studies to make it easier to find a job when she graduates.
"I enjoy little children and I used to teach piano to children ages four to 16, and I think to go back to that would just be amazing for me."
For LeDrew, it doesn't matter to her where she lands a job — and was excited by the different options at Wednesday's fair.
"We have people from the U.K., Yellowknife, Yukon, everywhere, so there's a really high demand for teachers right now. It's very cool to see," she said, adding that it doesn't matter to her if she stays in Newfoundland and Labrador.
"[It's a] wherever the wind goes, wherever anyone needs me kind of thing."