Oil and gas industry’s woes could boost teacher numbers

Scheme to help oil and gas workers find alternative careers will encourage them to use their knowledge to teach Stem subjects

Job losses in Scotland’s struggling oil and gas industry could provide a solution to the teacher recruitment crisis in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

A £12 million fund to help industry professionals find alternative careers will include money to support those who want to become teachers, it emerged this week.

Education secretary Angela Constance told the Aberdeen Learning Festival that this was the latest in a series of steps to attract more people into teaching.

The Scottish government hopes that the Transition Training Fund can be used to bring the skills of former oil and gas workers into classrooms, and in particular help those local authorities struggling to find teachers in Stem subjects.

‘Challenging staffing issues’

Aberdeen education director Gayle Gorman opened the learning festival by acknowledging “particularly challenging staffing issues” in the north-east of Scotland.

Several ideas are being pursued to attract more teachers to the area. The University of Aberdeen, for example, is running a distance-learning programme which allows council employees – from Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Highland and Moray – to retrain as teachers while continuing in their current jobs. The government’s ongoing #inspiringteachers campaign, meanwhile, seeks to promote the profession by encouraging people to talk about teachers who changed their lives.

Councils have previously tried recruiting teachers from Canada and Ireland, or offered “golden hellos” of up to £5,000 and subsidised accommodation to those prepared to relocate.

Last October six northern councils held a joint summit to explore ways of attracting more teachers. Aberdeen council leader Jenny Laing suggested following London’s example by offering higher salaries to employees in local authority areas with high property prices, although that idea did not get off the ground.

Ms Constance’s announcement this week was welcomed by the EIS, Scotland’s biggest teaching union, and the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

But Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said the government’s “laudable” drive to recruit teachers was “at risk of being seriously undermined if it continues to preside over the year-on-year erosion of teachers’ pay and worsening of their conditions of service”.

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