Labor Market Report: Colorado Needs a Few Hundred More School Teachers

Lending support to the notion that Colorado’s teacher shortage might get worse before it gets better, a new report shows that the state isn’t producing enough teaching graduates to keep up with demand.

A labor market report from the Colorado Office of Economic Development found that the number of annual graduates (1,976) falls well short of the annual number of job openings (3,456) for preschool, primary, secondary and special education teachers.

The study also notes the demand for teachers in Colorado is growing faster than the national average.

A second grade class at Bryant Webster K-8 school in Denver.

Joe Amon, The Denver Post

A second grade class at Bryant Webster K-8 school in Denver.

Last year, it felt like you couldn’t visit Twitter or Facebook without bumping into a story from somewhere about the teacher shortage crisis. (If the New York Times reports it, it must be true — and a thousand localized versions of that story bloom).

But as normally is the case, the portrait looked vastly different depending on location.

Colorado’s traditional teacher preparation programs have been in decline for five years, as documented in February by the state Department of Higher Education. The number of people completing alternative preparation programs, however, is rising.

Other warning lights are flashing. An estimated 5,500 Colorado teachers will retire this year while only about 2,000 state college and university graduates will have earned a teaching license, according to a coalition of 60 education advocacy groups that earlier this year outlined several strategies to tackle the teacher shortage.

One important caveat to the latest labor market report: Many teachers that wind up in Colorado were trained elsewhere. More than one in four Colorado teachers graduate from out-of-state programs, the state Department of Education estimates.

That’s why the anticipated teacher shortage is much smaller than the labor report suggests — approximately 300 positions a year, the higher education department projects. Not surprisingly, the problem is more acute in rural areas.

The labor report provides a mixed picture on supply and demand for those earning degrees in STEM — or science, technology, engineering and math — fields. The state is producing more than enough science graduates, has a slight deficit when it comes to computer sciences and is more in line with market demand in engineering graduates.

Yet jobs that demand these skills pay well, and Colorado has a long bench of employers looking for good people to fill jobs. As a result, the report said, the state might consider a strategic workforce plan to expand teachers and graduates in STEM careers, and encourage employer-run internships, as the Denver Business Journal notes.

The new study does suggest one area of the education workforce may be over-saturated — communications staffs.

As The Denver Post notes in its story:

” … Colorado graduates enough advertising, marketing and public relations majors each year to replace everyone employed in those fields in the state — and then some.”

Nothing against our friends in communications shops. Please respond to our emails and open records requests in a timely fashion.

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