April 13, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Department of Education
Colleen Wilkinson: Given the pandemic, I believe Teacher Candidates will need to highlight any technology skills they have acquired during schooling on their resumes and be comfortable speaking, during interviews, about how they incorporate technology into their instruction. Hiring committees, specifically parents on these committees, are also going to want to hear about engagement practices the Teacher Candidate plans to use. The pandemic saw a lot of passive learning taking place. This isn't best practice, it isn't what is best for children, specifically those with special needs. There are many high-engagement practices that can occur virtually and on-ground. Hiring committees are going to want to hear about these practices from the Teacher Candidate. They want to know what the Teacher Candidate will do differently in the same situation.
Colleen Wilkinson: Teaching is not a silo profession. We are in constant communication and collaboration with many stakeholders. Teacher Candidates need to be flexible in order to work well with all the different players in the game to make sure the student wins!
Colleen Wilkinson: While salaries have increased with the cost of living and inflation, New York State still has the highest average salary for teachers. Most districts increase teacher salaries based on Educational opportunities individual teachers participate in. Teachers are constantly learning, and the more learning you do, the higher your salary will go. For those looking to teach out of NYS, make sure to look into moving expenses and such. Some districts in different states will pay moving expenses due to the high needs they have for highly qualified teachers, specifically with a Special Education degree.
West Virginia University
Department of Curriculum and Instruction/Literacy Studies
Stephanie Lorenze: Certainly all of us who have experienced the pandemic will move forward having been impacted. As future teachers, our candidates will have gained the experience of learning and teaching in remote environments. This could prove to be significant as teachers in the field rarely have the remote learning experience that these graduates will have. Their perspective in this role has potential to positively impact their online teaching and learning strategies for future school children. Additionally, these graduate are going into the field with a greater awareness and aptitude for quick shifts in the mode of their instruction and delivery. I look for these folks to be resilient as the future of schooling in the US evolves post-pandemic.
Stephanie Lorenze: They wish they knew, honestly. This uncertainty is challenging. We are supporting them as they approach this time with support in self-care and professional strategies for sustainability in the emotional and academic work of teaching.
Stephanie Lorenze: Legislators and communities who value their work through actions.
Amanda Banks Ph.D.: Pressing Covid-related concerns for upcoming graduates are twofold. The first relates to the quality of the student teaching experience. In a number of cases, the pandemic has significantly decreased or even eradicated the ability of cooperating teachers and university supervisors to effectively mentor student teachers. Due of the threat of Covid transmission, a number of university supervisors are no longer permitted in schools, which can dramatically decrease their ability to provide essential, on-site support to student teachers. Covid has also exacerbated teacher and substitute teacher shortages, which has led some state departments of Education to offer student teachers paid substitute teaching positions in lieu of traditional placement in classrooms with a cooperating teacher. These paid alternatives may be attractive in the short-term but participants lose the chance to be mentored by seasoned teachers and critical opportunities to plan instruction. Additionally, teacher induction may be disrupted by Covid for some time, which means that novice teachers may not have access to the level of support from colleagues that they might have had in the absence of Covid. Notwithstanding all of these realities, novice teachers will be expected to hit the ground running as they enter their eventual classrooms.
In the long-term, the Covid pandemic might also affect the job outlook for new teachers. A number of economists have compared the current Covid recession to the recession of 2008, suggesting that the present economic downturn could lead to eventual teacher workforce downsizing. Typically, when teacher layoffs occur novices are the first to be cut. Upcoming or recent graduates looking to secure a job in the classroom should consider diversifying their credentials as a way to increase their marketability or job security. Ironically, districts that eventually lay off teachers may simultaneously struggle to fill specialized teaching positions such as bilingual services and special education.
Amanda Banks Ph.D.: Working knowledge of traditional and innovative instructional technology is essential for those entering teaching. Graduates should be familiar with a wide range of technology-based tools for effectively planning and delivering of instruction in a variety of formats, from in-class to synchronous and asynchronous learning. Fortunately, a number of preservice teachers consistently use or are at least exposed to a myriad of technology as students in higher ed. Familiarity with LMS platforms, audio/video recording and presentation apps, school-to-home communication modalities, and assistive technology are absolutely essential for every graduate planning to enter the classroom.
Additionally, developing innovate approaches to engaging and maintaining student interest and teaching the unwritten curriculum (e.g., basic citizenship skills, personal organization, punctuality, work quality, and honesty) are critical. Brief or protracted periods of virtual teaching can make this especially challenging. Another essential skillset is fostering student-parent-school partnerships. Research indicates parent involvement significantly impacts academic success for all students. For students with exceptional learning needs, parent involvement is the single most powerful predictor of their academic performance. New teachers should make it a top priority to build rapport with their students, and become familiar with their personalities and life circumstances as well as their learning strengths and needs.
Amanda Banks Ph.D.: Adaptability and expertise in teaching diverse students in inclusive classrooms are growing focal points of many school districts nationally. With recent changes in federal education legislation (Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015), there has been a growing need for educators to universally design effective learning opportunities for a wide range of learners (Universal Design for Learning) to ensure students' academic progress regardless of their socioeconomic background or learning ability. Identifying potential teachers who can help students and schools successfully meet state and federal accountability standards is paramount to hiring committees.
Candidates should showcase any firsthand experiences they have in working with students within and outside of the classroom, especially diverse student populations (e.g., special education, bilingual education). Strong collaboration skills, content expertise, and instructional flexibility are three professional qualities that definitely set a candidate apart from the rest. Recent graduates who anticipate entering the job market in the near future should actively search for such volunteer opportunities if they didn't have these types of experiences in their preparation program.
Marie Leahy: Yes, I think the coronavirus pandemic will have an enduring impact on college graduates in ways that will continue to unfold. One of the biggest impacts right now is the loss of the "typical college experience" that many of them feel. For example, many colleges and universities had to postpone last year's graduation and the long-awaited activities that accompany the end of senior year. Many courses have been moved to either an online or a hybrid format, resulting in students opting to live at home rather than on campus or in off campus housing with friends. In regard to Education majors, a large portion, if not all, of their practicum experiences as well as their student teaching experiences have been virtual. Even though it was challenging to create a rich experience in a virtual setting, the students responded extremely well. They were able to understand first-hand the importance of patience, flexibility, and creativity, and that will be an asset for them as educators for sure.
Marie Leahy: Recent graduates in the teaching profession are going to experience a very similar situation as they had in student teaching since schools are still a mixture of being virtual, hybrid, and in-person. Recent graduates will need to accommodate different learning modalities at once since in-person and hybrid models typically have an online option; consequently, a teacher who is teaching children in-person will also have students streaming the class and participating virtually. At the risk of stating the obvious, recent graduates in the field of education will certainly have to face the fear of being exposed to COVID-19 as they venture into the classroom. They will also need to use their creativity and ingenuity to foster a warm and caring classroom environment as they foster relationships in an environment where everyone is wearing a mask and staying six feet apart. That's challenging.
Marie Leahy: The suddenness of the onset of the pandemic made all employers realize that it is absolutely critical for their workers to be able to mobilize quickly and adapt to an entirely new situation with relative ease. Recent graduates in the field of education will need to be able to use Microsoft Office and be able to use interactive whiteboards and maintain a classroom website. In addition, they will need to be able to utilize learning management systems, live streaming, and document cameras/visual presenters. Each school/district has its own learning management system, but if someone is experienced in using a learning management system, then getting accustomed to a different one is pretty seamless. The same is true for live streaming services and document cameras/visual presenters.