June 26, 2009 / 5:09 PM / in 8 years

More Canadians seek work teaching English overseas

TORONTO (Reuters) - A growing number of recent graduates from Canadian universities are becoming English teachers overseas, discouraged by a tight job market during Canada’s deepest recession in decades.

Teach Away, a Toronto-based agency that helps North Americans find teaching jobs overseas, says applications to teach English in Asia and elsewhere have jumped about 400 percent since late 2008.

“Positions are filling quicker this year than ever before,” said director Rene Frey.

Vancouver-based Footprints Recruiting has experienced a similar trend, receiving 100 more applications a week than it did last year, said co-founder Ben Glickman.

“We definitely see economic causalities come through the door. You see a lot of fallout from the financial industry, where people that were involved in finances are now teaching overseas,” said Glickman.

“I interviewed a guy the other day -- he has a masters degree in quantitative science. I mean last year he probably wouldn’t be applying to teach in Korea.”

In Canada, the unemployment rate climbed to 8.4 percent in May, its highest in 11 years.

Footprints, which places most of its applicants in South Korean schools, says more teachers working overseas are staying put rather than coming back because jobs at home are scarce.

Applicants to teach English overseas need a four-year university degree rather than formal teaching experience. But agencies say more people with post-graduate degrees and stronger qualifications are applying for the jobs.

“The schools and the different employers we work with overseas are definitely being more selective comparative to years past,” said Glickman.

Luckily, the weak global economy doesn’t mean the demand for teachers is declining. Learning English as a second language is an important facet of education in most North Asian countries, so schools have not cut back.

Indeed South Korean schools are hiring more ESL teachers this year than ever, agencies say.

Footprints, which handles applicants from Canada, the United States, Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. currently has more than 1,000 ESL teachers placed overseas.

But Canadian teachers may be in particular demand.

“Some of the schools we work with prefer Canadian teachers. In terms of the ESL industry, Canadians have a more neutral accent across the board,” said Glickman.

“The base line university education system in Canada provides a very good basis for teaching overseas as well.”

Reporting by Nina Lex; Editing by Frank McGurty

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