Alabama suffers from shortage of trade teachers

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – Alabama is suffering from a shortage of career technical education teachers, those who provide instruction on trades including plumbing, electrical, and mechanical fields.

Many of these skilled workers want to teach their trades in high school classrooms, but they’re facing difficulties becoming certified teachers.

“We’ve got to have them. If we can’t get those experts into the buildings and get them in front of the students, we can’t prepare the students,” said Josh Laney, senior director for workforce development with the Alabama State Department of Education.

Part of the problem is that the certification exams, also called the Praxis exam, tests them on topics that are sometimes not applicable to their fields. For instance, a welder would need to answer calculus questions, which aren’t necessary in order to be a welder.

James Broadway worked as a plumber for 37 years. He took the certification test two times.

“They don’t have questions related to the field,” Broadway said.

He currently teaches at Elmore County Technical Center with a temporary teaching certification. Professionals can receive this temporary certification to teach while they complete the necessary coursework, including the Praxis exam, to be a certified teacher.

“I’ve still got that knowledge I want to pass on to the students that I have here in my course,” he said.

A number of people are failing the exams and cannot become teachers, something they see as a major deterrent to expanding access to their specialized fields.

“We’re trying to remove the barriers out of the way so that people with real-world expertise can come in and get in front of our students,” Laney said.

State education leaders will meet with State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey in the beginning of 2019 to discuss possible solutions. Mackey has said in the past he wants to look into modifying the exams for career tech teachers.

Education leaders are on a time crunch to find a solution. Tommy Glasscock, the assistant state superintendent of education, career and technical education, said schools are required to tenure a teacher after working there for three years.

However, if these career tech teachers do not pass their exams and have teacher certifications, schools may not be inclined to hiring them. This can contribute to the teacher shortage.

Glasscock did point out that there is not only a shortage of career tech teachers, but teachers of all subjects across the state.

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