Michigan has a teacher shortage, at least when it comes to vocational programs.
Education administrators say it's creating "emergency situations" in some parts of the state, especially rural areas.
A few programs have even had to shut down in recent years, says Brian Pyles, president of the Michigan Association for Career and Technical Education.
“In Southwest Michigan, our greatest demand in manufacturing right now is for machine tool trades people. And in the last year, we’ve had to suspend one of our county programs for a year because we couldn’t find a qualified teacher,” he says.
“And that’s had an impact on young people who would want to go into that area, and it’s one of our highest in-demand jobs. So it’s doing a disservice not only to our students, but our businesses.”
Administrators are asking the state to temporarily reduce the amount of field experience an applicant has to have in order to teach in state-approved programs.
Right now, teachers have to have 4,000 hours of relevant field experience. And they have to have racked up those hours within the last six years.
That's tough if you're teaching full time, Pyles says.
"It's just really difficult when you have qualified teachers who are teaching full-time, to then meet that 4,000 hours of work experience ... [which is equivalent to] two years of full-time employment. And most people don't work two full-time jobs."
Applicants would still need 1,600 hours of "recent and relevant work experience" under the new, temporary standards that administrators want the state to approve. They'd also have to get 200 new hours of work experience each year they teach.
And while Pyles says getting those new standards approved would be helpful, he says the real problem is it's tough to attract good applicants in the first place.
Because at the end of the day, teaching just doesn't pay that much.
"The people that we're trying to secure, are making much higher wages in private industry than they do in public education. And once somebody has set their life and they are affording things for their families, it becomes difficult for them to take a pay reduction to come work for us," says Pyles.