On Wednesday 11 September Future Tracks, a social enterprise committed to attracting and supporting the next generation of teachers and leaders in early childhood education, released their research report on Upskilling in early childhood education.
The report provides interesting insights into the barriers and opportunities to grow the ECEC workforce.
The report was commissioned to identify the barriers to upskilling faced by educators, in light of the tremendous predicted jobs growth – up to an additional 29,000 early childhood teachers by 2023.
The researchers undertook a literature review, qualitative research with current early childhood educators and a quantitative cost-benefit analysis to formulate their report.
The researchers identified five key themes:
- Mixed perceptions and low awareness about the value and opportunities of an early childhood teacher (ECT) role and qualification
- The challenge of managing workload and family commitments with study
- Concerns about the value of university courses, academic supports and application process
- Limited support and challenging conditions within the workplace
- Financial burden and risk of upskilling is too high
A panel discussion was held with Joe Connell (Associate Director at Dandolo Partners who lead the research), Simon Kent (Public policy fellow, University of Melbourne) Paul Mondo (President Australian Childcare Alliance) and Julie Madgwick (Head of Early Learning and Education at G8).
The panel discussed the five themes, including concerns raised by educators that a role as an ECT is “high-stress and high burden”, a lack of understanding of what the role entails, the high level of job vacancy and the pay differential.
Entering study was raised as a major barrier by educators – both juggling the challenges of personal life, work and study, and a lack of confidence in their capacity to engage in university study with comments made including:
“I wonder if I am good enough and I am worried about all the extra work that you have to do and the responsibilities” – educator
The panel discussed the importance of supporting staff to upskill by providing motivation, mentoring and study leave. This was also borne out in the research, with contrasting views between educators who had not been supported to upskill:
“My manager said to me: “Why would you do that? You don’t need to do that”
and those that had:
“I had wonderful role models and mentors over the course of my early childhood career, who always encouraged me to continue to study and upskill” – educator currently upskilling
The cost of studying was also raised as a major issue, with the cost benefit analysis showing the breakeven point at 6 years if educators studied part time or full time whilst working part time.
Cost Benefit Analysis
Cost-benefit analysis for upskilling to an ECT role. (Sourced from Future Track, Upskilling in early childhood education Report.)
In conclusion the panel discussed a range of ideas to improve the upskilling of early childhood educators, some of which are within the control of services.
- Identifying which educators are most suited to becoming early childhood teachers
- Providing financial incentives, including paid placements by organising placement swaps with other organisations
- Creating a culture of continual leanring
- Talking about the benefits of being an ECT including career pathways and salaries.
Given the current and growing shortfall in early childhood teachers, services may wish to read the report and reflect on how to support current staff to upskill.