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Recruiting local teachers for South

By Adelle Larmour Recruiting English-speaking teachers in South Korea is big business for thousands of private schools in the densely-populated country, and Sudbury's Jason Cresswell has capitalized on that need.

By Adelle Larmour

Recruiting English-speaking teachers in South Korea is big business for thousands of private schools in the densely-populated country, and Sudbury's Jason Cresswell has capitalized on that need.

Along with co-owners Mathew Boulton and James Moorhouse, the recruiting business ASK Now Inc. (Access South Korea Now Inc.) was born out of their 10-years combined teaching experience in South Korea.

"It's about opening people's views," Cresswell says. "When you get there, it all makes sense."

In a country with 45 million people living in an area approximately half the size of Ontario, Cresswell says people want the best for their children, including a good education and the ability to speak English in order to be competitive in the global job market.

The schools pay Cresswell and his cohorts to recruit teachers, but the service is free to those inquiring about a placement.  ASK Now Inc. performs the interview and does the advertising.

"We deal with a lot of different businesses," he says, from large chains to smaller 'mom and pop' businesses. He adds they are constantly meeting with new schools and companies.

With a monthly turnover of about 2,000 teachers, the demand outweighs the supply by about 20,000 to 30,000 depending on the contract and whether people choose to renew.  

"There are always positions available," he adds, beginning each month with a commitment of one year. Should the teacher choose to stay and extend their contract, there is a bonus equal to one month's pay. Flight and accommodation is covered, and the monthly salary is approximately between $2,200 and $2,300, paying only four to five per cent income tax. 

Cresswell, who spent five years teaching in South Korea with intermittent travel throughout the world, gained valuable exposure to different cultures while building his independence. He sees it as a great way for recent graduates to save money for travel, or to pay off their student loans, while acquiring worldly experience.

ASK Now Inc. recruits approximately 20 to 30 English-speaking people per month throughout Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, although the majority are from Canada and the U.S.A. 

Prospective teachers require a degree (not specific to education), must be a native English speaker and have a passport from any of the previously mentioned countries. Cresswell says the schools prefer to hire recent graduates.

"They want people with energy," he explains, because the schools have an image of the type of person they want teaching their children. Recent grads also tend to be more flexible, because they are seeking experience.

Admittedly, Cresswell says it is more of a challenge to place people over 40.

Much of the process is web-based and interviews are conducted by phone. Decisions are based upon these interactions.

Despite the high demand for teachers, it is important for the potential candidate and the school to have a positive experience.

"We have to balance both things," Cresswell says. "We have to screen our applicants and screen our schools so we have a good fit between both."

Once there, a curriculum is provided and other teachers offer support for newcomers. Opportunities range from teaching elementary school-aged children to adult classes with no more than 12 students.

Cresswell stresses the importance educating prospective teachers about the culture, the work, expectations and the realities of living in a different country.

"That is probably the biggest challenge," he says, because people are hesitant due to lack of knowledge about Asian countries.

"We are there to ease the nervousness and give the information required so they can be comfortable with their decision."

Some important qualities are independence, adaptability and flexibility; all traits that make a candidate more marketable to an employer.

Presently, Cresswell is in South Korea striking up new contracts and networking to assure the recruiting is a seamless transition for candidates and schools alike. He is fluent in the language and married a Korean model, strengthening his ties to the country and its people.

Cresswell enjoys sharing his own positive teaching experience through his work along with the travelling required. He also sees the business evolving in the future with the use of video conferencing as a means of dealing with the physical challenges of face-to-face interviews.