But unfortunately, there is a disconnect that too often leaves jobs unfilled and graduates unemployed.
As has often been reported, the great need in public education is for math and science teachers and specialists in foreign languages and special education. If fact, more than 8 percent of classes in West Virginia are being led by instructors teaching ‘‘out of field,’’ recent statistics show.
Yet the college education majors choosing those fields cannot keep up with the demand, not only in West Virginia but across the country. Some studies, for example, say the nation will need 200,000 new math and science teachers over the next decade.
Meanwhile, too many college students specialize in already crowded fields, such as elementary education.
The problem can be seen in ‘‘real time’’ this year at the spring teacher job expos, including the one held at Marshall University this week. Many students are disappointed to find that after years of hard work, there are few prospects in their field. Some say they will consider going back to school to get certified in more high demand areas.
‘‘I truly don’t know where the breakdown is,’’ Jackson County school administrator Jay Carnell told The Herald-Dispatch this week. ‘‘As a school system, we make it apparent what our needs are.’’
The picture is even bleaker in many states, where state budget cutbacks have meant teacher layoffs and there are few openings for elementary education candidates. Yet, some of those same states are implementing special licensing procedures in an effort to attract math and science teachers.
The challenge of filling math and science slots is complex, and some researchers argue that the current crisis is less about the size of the pipeline of new teachers coming in and more about the large number of math and science teachers who leave the profession for other careers.
But still it seems that some students might have considered these high-demand fields if they had understood the employment prospects they would be facing as seniors.
Some students say college advisers need to do a better job of presenting the job picture. Although educators respond that students are getting that information, it would be good to redouble those efforts. Matching higher education to job-market demands is never easy, but in this case, it seems more plain talk could make a big difference.