Hiring challenges remain, VSB teams head to recruitment fairs in Ontario

Schools & Students

Vancouver School Board is still having challenges in recruiting staff for its schools, but continues to work overtime to attract new staff to the district.

Since February 1, 2017, VSB has hired 428 teachers for its schools. VSB has also recruited 672 teachers to its Teachers Teaching on Call (TTOC) list, including 118 retired teachers, and 257 who take on call assignments as a second job. 

Nearly 200 teachers have resigned since the spring, with nearly 100 resigning since July 1 and 40 since September 1. The majority of teachers have resigned to take jobs in other districts. Complicating this situation, 119 teachers retired at the end of June 2017. That’s up from the previous annual average of about 80 retirements.

The most difficult teaching positions to fill are in French Immersion, special education, math, sciences, counselling, technical studies, and Mandarin. In August, VSB had 280 vacancies. In September that was down to 72 vacancies, which was 53 full-time equivalents (FTEs). In early October there were 113 vacancies, or 84 FTEs, and as of this week VSB reports 51 full and part time vacancies. That’s 41 openings in elementary schools and 10 vacancies in secondary schools, for a total of 41 FTEs.

“Our employee services staff have done a tremendous job working to fill all the vacancies in our district,” says David Nelson, associate superintendent, school services. “This situation is unprecedented in the province, with so many new teachers being hired in every district to meet the agreement on class size and composition. We are putting all kinds of new measures in place to strengthen our recruitment.”

For example, VSB has brought in retired administrators and additional staff to assist with interviews and reference checks. Unfilled assignments are being posted to the Make-a-Future hiring site, which links to the job mega-site Indeed.ca. As well, external applicants are now being interviewed directly at the school to speed up the process.

VSB recruitment teams are travelling to Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan to recruit new teachers. In fact, a team of 10 are in Toronto this weekend at a big recruitment fair that expects more than 3,500 teachers to attend.

“We’re now able to provide moving allowances to out-of-province teacher candidates,” says Nelson. “And we’re working with employee groups to identify homestays for out-of-province hires to make it easier for them to have a place to stay while settling in to Vancouver.”

Another area where hiring has been challenging is for school and student support workers, referred to as SSAs.

“Recruiting SSAs has been an ongoing challenge for Vancouver and districts across the province for many years,” notes Nelson. “There is an undersupply of staff with training or experience in this area.”

Nelson points out that VSB has taken many steps to hire and recruit more SSAs, including recruiting those with experience as behaviour interventionists and early childhood educators, posting openings for SSAs on a wide variety of job boards, and working with local colleges and universities who have Education Assistant programs and many private colleges.

VSB employees 700 permanent SSAs, and there have been 156 permanent and 37 temporary positions posted since July 1. Unfortunately, VSB has received 85 resignations since June 1, of which 30 were retirements.

“Ideally we’d want to have more than 300 people on our SSA on-call list, but right now we’ve got 232,” says Nelson. “In October there was an average of 66 unfilled SSA absences a day. We’ve had to redeploy SSAs based on priority when there are not enough on-call SSAs to cover absences. Principals and vice principals also work to reassign SSAs internally to cover unfilled absences, but we are challenged in this area.”

Nelson acknowledged all the hard work going on at VSB to fill all these vacancies. “Our employee services staff really are working lots of overtime and coming in on weekends and stat holidays,” he says. “We’ve also had tremendous efforts and cooperation from district staff in school and learning services, principals and vice principals, the school teams, and from the Vancouver Teachers Federation and CUPE.”