Is There a Teacher Shortage in Canada? Insights and Solutions

Drew Whitehurst | November 7, 2023

It comes as no surprise to educators in Canada that there has been a shortage in the supply of teachers in recent years. Much like its southern neighbor, the United States, Canada is grappling with a shortage of new teachers and staff entering the K-12 job market. It’s a complex problem that exists at regional and provincial levels.

From a lack of substitute teachers in Nova Scotia to a staggering 8,000+ teacher gap in Quebec, the Canadian educational system is wrestling with significant challenges. In this article, we’ll explore some of the causes behind the teacher shortage and potential tech solutions available to help Canadian school boards bridge the talent gap.

Understanding the K-12 Teacher Shortage: Defining the Problem

The K-12 teacher shortage in Canada can be best defined by an imbalance between the demand for qualified educators and the supply of teachers available to meet that demand. The shortage varies significantly by region, creating a varied set of problems in different areas of the country.

For example, in northern provinces like Nunavut, there’s a significant teacher vacancy of 9-10%. In other areas, such as Nova Scotia, the most pressing issue is the lack of substitute teachers.

These disparities reveal that the shortage issue isn’t uniform from territory-to-territory, and requires tailored solutions to address the unique challenges in each region.

Causes of the Teacher Shortage

One of the key reasons for the teacher shortage is the demographic factors at play. An aging teacher workforce, combined with retirement trends, has created a gap that’s hard to fill. As experienced educators retire, there aren’t enough new teachers to take their place.

According to Reuters, one in five workers in the broader Canadian economy is now 55 or older with retirement rates increasing 12.5% in 2020 and 31.8% in 2021.

Another significant factor is the declining enrollment in teacher education programs. Fewer individuals are choosing teaching as a career, contributing to the dwindling pool of qualified teachers. This shift is also linked to a variety of reasons, such as concerns about salary, workload, and job satisfaction.

For instance, Ontario encountered a rise in new teachers in the early 2010s, prompting them to limit the quantity of education graduates. As a result, there is now a shortage of available teachers in the province. Between 2019 and 2022, Ontario graduated approximately 4,600 education program students, while the demand for teaching positions stood at around 5,800 during that same timeframe.

Teacher shortages present challenges in both rural and urban areas as well, and impact the way school boards recruit teachers to different areas. In rural regions, school boards have a more difficult time hiring health, physical education, music, librarian, guidance teachers, and social workers. Housing shortages are an issue and school boards must attract and incentivize candidates moving to more rural and/or remote areas.

In contrast, urban centers typically face teacher shortages due to higher living costs and increased competition for job positions, leading to concerns around inadequate class sizes.

Effects of the Teacher Shortage

The shortage presents numerous challenges for schools and school boards. Some regions are forced to rely on unlicensed or uncertified teachers to fill gaps, which can undermine the quality of education. Additionally, some schools have no substitute teachers, leading to disruptions in the learning process.

Educators face tremendous pressure as they are shifted around to cover unfilled positions. This hampers their ability to focus on individual students, which can be particularly detrimental to those who require additional support.


Overcoming the Challenges of Teacher Shortages

Addressing the K-12 teacher shortage is a complex task that demands innovative solutions. Finding solutions to some of these challenges necessitates tailored approaches, such as programs to encourage students to pursue career paths in education, distance education programs for rural regions, and incentives to attract and retain teachers in urban and rural settings respectively.

While using tech is not a “one size fits all” solution to all of the problems discussed in this article, the integration of modern HR technology, pre-recorded video interviews, and applicant tracking systems can provide a valuable lifeline.

The integration of human resources (HR) technology in the recruitment process can significantly streamline the hiring of qualified educators. These technologies offer several advantages:

  • Time-To-Hire is Key: In many cases the first school board to extend an offer wins the candidate. Using technology to help speed up your process can mean the difference between winning or losing a top candidate.
  • Match Candidates to Tailored Needs: HR tech allows school boards to create a comprehensive database of prospective candidates, including certified and experienced teachers. Systems like this can efficiently match candidates to job openings, taking into account factors like location, certification, and experience. As a result, schools can identify potential hires more rapidly, helping to mitigate the impact of teacher shortages.
  • Efficiently Manage Applications: Applicant tracking systems are a powerful tool for managing the influx of applications that schools receive. These systems can streamline the hiring process by automating the initial screening of candidates, saving valuable time for administrators and hiring teams. ATS software can help identify candidates who meet specific criteria, ensuring that the most qualified educators are considered for available positions. This approach can be particularly beneficial when dealing with a high volume of applicants.
  • Efficiently Screen Candidates: Another important tool to consider is video interviewing, which offers an efficient and cost-effective method for evaluating candidates. Video interviews allow schools to assess teacher and staff candidates with more speed than traditional screening methods. Candidates can complete an interview, and evaluators can review candidates from anywhere at any time. This technology can bridge geographical gaps, enabling schools to connect with qualified candidates from across the country, regardless of their location. Furthermore, video interviews offer a consistent and standardized evaluation process, ensuring fair and equitable assessments.

Earlier this year ApplyToEducation (Canada’s leading K-12 Education applicant tracking system) and interviewstream (the leader in K-12 video interviewing technology) partnered up to help tackle the teacher shortage in Canada. An integration between the two systems is scheduled for roll-out in December and will allow users to incorporate video interviewing directly into their applicant profiles in ApplyToEducation.

Integrating the two technologies is pivotal in addressing the hiring needs of school boards by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the hiring process. These tools work together to help school boards increase the speed at which they interview teachers and staff and identify the most qualified educators – all while minimizing the administrative burden on schools and school boards.


The Bottom Line

The K-12 teacher shortage in Canada is a complex issue that necessitates a wide variety of solutions. Leveraging HR technology, video interviewing, and applicant tracking systems alongside other strategies can enhance the recruitment process, allowing schools to identify and hire qualified teachers more efficiently.

Embrace the potential of technology and modern recruitment methods to help bridge the gap between the demand for teachers and the supply of qualified educators. Reach out here to connect with our team about how video interviewing solutions can help your school.

About The Author

Drew Whitehurst is the Director of Marketing at interviewstream. He's been with the company since 2014 working in client services and marketing. He is an analytical thinker, coffee enthusiast, and hobbyist at heart.


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