After a decade when Canadian teacher colleges were so over-subscribed that students flocked to study in the U.S., the scarce job market has begun to slow the education market.

In Ontario between 1998 and 2000, just 500 students a year crossed into the U.S. to study teaching. That number doubled in 2001 and peaked at 1,700 in 2006 as spaces in Canada became harder to come by.

“In 2008, it was about 1,500. I expect the numbers would likely continue to decline for the next few years, because the job market will remain tight,” says Frank McIntyre, human resource manager at the Ontario Teachers College. The OTC regulates teachers in the province.

The U.S. drop off has been accompanied by a decline in Ontario. About 11,800 applicants competed for 8,100 spaces in the teachers’ education program last year.

“I’ve seen years when there are as many as 16,000 applicants,” McIntyre says.

In the 1990s, with few teaching jobs and the media running stories of layoffs, interest declined to below 8,000. When the job market heated up at the millennium as teachers took advantage of new rules about early retirement, the numbers climbed back up to 16,000.

As those retirements have dried up and fewer jobs are opening up, the number has dropped again.

“It lags (behind the employment market) by a couple of years, because it takes a while for the news to get out to people. I think the natural level of interest is in the 14,000 to 16,000 each year,” McIntyre says.

Of people applying to teach in Ontario annually, about 9,000 are Ontarians trained at Ontario faculties, 1,400 are Ontarians who attend the U.S. “border colleges” and 1,000 are Ontarians who train in Australia or Britain. About 2,000 a year are non-Ontarians.

Robert Murphy, vice-president of student affairs and enrollment at D’Youville College in New York state, confirms the trend.

“We have a fairly large Canadian presence on campus (but) it’s a smaller than it has been in the past,” he says, noting D’Youville has been recruiting Canadians for more than a decade. The college trains teachers who can then work in Canada.

In 2008, they dropped to 796 Canadians out of a student population of 3,000. This year it’s down to 600.

“Our understanding is the market has changed in Canada. There are less openings, less positions available, particularly in Ontario,” he says. He also cites more places to study in Canada, stricter admissions at D’Youville and a stuttering economy.

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