Job market tighter for some foreign teachers in Taiwan

Maggie Cieslukowski arrived from Quebec last week armed with some tutoring experience and a TESL, and is finding landing a teaching job harder than last year at this time.

By Trista di Genova
The China Post

Maggie Cieslukowski, 32, arrived from Quebec last week armed with a background in graphic design, a little tutoring experience, an Associate’s degree and a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate. She came to Taiwan, she says, “to travel, to experience something new,” and after carefully weighing factors such as the cost of living, chose Taiwan over more expensive Japan.

Maggie spent a few days “resting and settling in” at the International Youth Hostel in downtown Taipei, then headed to the Internet cafe to land a job, using as her main resource (Teaching English and Living in Taiwan).

“I spent two solid days in front of the computer, until I was sore, starting at 6 p.m. and not getting out until 4 a.m. I sent out massive emails — copying and pasting, copying and pasting — to all the jobs in Taipei.”

For the first few days, nobody returned her calls. Out of desperation, she began contacting some schools outside of Taipei, “in Taichung because I had a friend there.”

Then, calls started coming in from her first round of inquiries, but Maggie had noticed signs that the labor market for foreign teachers seems to have changed since her first visit to Taiwan.

Still, it’s common for newbies to Taiwan — like Nicolas Moore, 22, a double major in economics and music who arrived in Taiwan last month from Irvine, California — to find a teaching job in a matter of days; in his case, it took four days. And granted, there are ebbs and flows in the market at different times of the academic year.

However, other Taiwan neophytes have also remarked that the demand for teachers seems to have declined, likely due to the economic situation, says Jeremy Shen, Director of Information for the Ministry of the Interior, although he sees the demand for foreign teachers only expanding over time.

“English is so important here in Taiwan, the need for foreign teachers gets bigger and bigger, and there will always be many opportunities for them.”

Looking through her notes, Maggie was able to make a comparison. “Last year at the same time in August, there were 26 schools out of about 50 that contacted me back; this year were only 2 out of about the same number. Some days I had three interviews set up.

And salaries seem to be going down, too.

“Before, there were a lot of NT$650s [an hour], now you see a lot of NT$600s. A year later, it should be higher. I think now only one or two schools on advertise paid Chinese New Year, and typhoon days, when it was common before.”

They’re also asking for more experience, and a lot fewer first-time teachers are welcome, she said.

“I started by applying for positions for first-time teachers. Then when nobody called me back, I applied for jobs that didn’t specify the type of experience required, or ones that preferred a master’s degree, or specific experience with children. From that, I had some responses. But the last time I was in Taiwan, I had a bidding war going on. They were going to give me NT$750/hour, and added a completion bonus. They were desperate to have me. Then there was another lady calling me every few days, telling me ‘I want you to work at my school.'”

There is another slight difference in class sizes now, Maggie believes. “Last year, schools were bragging that they had small classes of six students. Today, when I went to my first interview, I was told there were 12 students; but today when I went to the demo there were 18.”

Until she weighs all her options and decides about where she’ll be teaching, Maggie is considering taking on some temporary or substitute teaching since, she says, “A lot of people have asked me to do sub work for them for Christmas,”although legally that can be risky — schools can be raided and fined, teachers deported if caught.

Personal networking seems to be the best solution to combat any contraction in the job market.
“Tomorrow, I’m going to the second interview,” Maggie said on Wednesday. And through networking, she met somebody who can give her a job. “People are saying to me, ‘I run a school and have unreliable teachers; I’ll take you in.'”