I’ve graduated, where’s my job?
Over the last month or so it has become evident that education graduates have started to question the situation that they are finding themselves in, especially with the announcement of New Teacher Intern Placement Program. Most recently on ABC local news this story aired; Tasmanian teacher graduates struggling to find work slam government cuts. My question is, has anything really changed? And should we expect to find work because we have completed a degree?
I started teaching over 20 years ago and the “way in” then was the relief work that led to contract work, there were exceptions of course. The two years leading up to finishing my degree in 1993 we were told it would be hard to find work, the impact of Cresap was being felt.
The incoming Minister of Education, Peter Patmore, commissioned Cresap Ltd. to find $18 million savings for the 1990-1991 year. Cresap’s Final Report (1990, p. 26) cut schools’ staffs by about 10%, devolved many administrative functions to schools, replaced all regional personnel with lean district offices, and then down-scaled systemic planning, professional development and curriculum capacities. Many traditional accountability structures collapsed, with a few temporary exceptions, until 1992 when they were reconstructed. (http://iejll.journalhosting.ucalgary.ca/iejll/index.php/ijll/article/viewFile/13/12 access 27/5/15)
Easthop and Easthop provide an interesting insight into some of the impact of Cresap in the article Teachers’ Stories of Change: Stress, Care and Economic Rationality.
On completion of my degree I worked as a carer for children with disabilities and did relief work. I left the state to get my first full time job as a teacher in September 1994, and have obviously returned. To return to teaching in Tasmania at the time it was easier to enter via the private system, after doing that I then found my way into the public system. To be honest, the jobs I picked up were due to building relationships and working hard to demonstrate my ability. By mid 1996 I lived in Penguin and had contract work at Sheffield, which was part time. On my days off I did relief work at a range of schools including Smithton High School. This led to a full time contract at Smithton the following year, at the end of 1998 I applied for the only two permanent teaching positions in my teaching area and was granted the one at Queenstown. In those days permanency was something you applied for and in the area I teach that was fairly rare. Since then the process for obtaining permanency has changed and unbroken contract work is now considered as part of the mix. Is this a fairer system? Some would say yes and others would say no. Does this present some interesting dilemmas? Yes. At the end of the day there are only so many people that can hold full time permanent positions based on need, essentially an algorithm to provide appropriate staffing levels. So this then means that continuos contracts need to be carefully thought out by the employer.
I do wonder if the situation has really changed. Are we seeing more graduate teachers looking for work? I remember attending my graduation ceremony in 1994 and mixing with classmates who were still looking for work as I was and those who had found work. It was certainly difficult to listen to those who had the dream that I so desperately wanted. Would I change the pathway into my currently role now? No. Those five years of contract work have certainly been of benefit to me as a professional and as a person. Having hindsight is a wonderful thing, when you are in the midst of trying to land your first job and then subsequent contracts after that it doesn’t necessarily feel so purposeful.
This leads me to consider that moment I sat in the Albert Hall at the graduation ceremony in 2013. I was there graduating with a Masters degree and watching what felt like hundreds of young, freshly graduate teachers walking to receive their degree. All I could think to myself at that point was I hope that someone had been honest with them, as a lecturer was with myself and my peers, that finding a job would not be an easy road. You see, I sat there with the knowledge of the system. I sat there knowing that although people could retire it doesn’t mean they do, life is not that simple. I sat there knowing that having connections does impact on opportunity – as it does with many areas of employment. I sat there knowing that they are now competing with those already in the system who have their name out there and are relief teaching and working contracts. I sat there knowing the game, they sat there fresh and excited about the next page they were turing holding great hopes for their future. I held great hopes for them also, yet I sat there understanding reality.