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How our workforce is tracking – CELA workforce survey results

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A giant thank you to the CELA members* who completed our workforce survey in late 2020. Your responses provide us with a good understanding of the shape of our workforce, and the recruitment challenges our members are facing. This will help us with our advocacy in 2021, and in particular how CELA can feed into ACECQA’s National Workforce Strategy, which is currently under development and will be open for consultation in 2021.

Here’s what you told us:

Number of staff employed

There is wide variance in the number of staff employed at services. Whilst most services have between 1 and 6 full-time staff members, nearly twenty percent have more than 15 full-time staff members.
More than half of all services who responded have between one and four part-time staff members.

There is a low level of reliance on casual staff, with over half of all services employing two or less casual staff.

Staff demographics

Staff are spread across a range of ages, from 16 to older than 55, with nearly half of all staff aged 25-44.

Under ten percent of staff are male, while close to fifteen percent of staff identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Less than 7 percent of staff are on temporary visas – this figure may be lower than normal given reports that many temporary visa staff returned to their home countries at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak during 2020.

Skill profile

Nearly half of all staff have a diploma or a bachelor qualification, with only a small number having a qualification below a Certificate III or no qualification.

Your responses indicate a high level of upskilling occurring within the sector. Around a third of staff are studying towards a qualification, with nearly two-thirds of those studying undertaking a diploma or bachelor level qualification.

We asked you how many years of experience, on average, staff have at each qualification level. Your responses indicate that staff with higher levels of qualifications are likely to have significantly more experience than staff with lower levels of qualifications:

  • Unqualified staff have on average less than six years of experience.
  • Staff who have below a certificate III have less than three years of experience on average.
  • Staff who hold a certificate III or IV have on average six or less years of experience.
  • Staff who hold a diploma or bachelor have on average more than six years of experience.

These figures are influenced by staff upskilling – for example, diploma staff may have gained prior experience as certificate qualified educators. The figures also likely reflect a high level of attrition of certificate qualified staff.

Recruitment and staff turnover

Your feedback indicates an increasing difficulty in finding and recruiting staff.

You reported mixed experiences of staff turnover in 2020. Around half of all services reported staff turnover was much lower than in previous years, whilst half reported turnover was much higher.

Levels of recruitment were high, with services on average recruiting three new staff, predominately at educator level. Most recruitment occurred in the period of September to end of 2020. This also aligned with the period where it was most difficult to recruit staff.

You reported that recruiting staff was more difficult in late 2020 than at the same time last year, with a third of survey respondents reporting that recruitment was much more difficult than the same time last year.

Concerningly there appears to be a great level of difficulty finding the right staff:

“Recruitment and retention has always been a significant issue in regional areas…and has become much worse since COVID. Lots of jobs on offer in our area but few applicants….and even fewer quality applicants.”

The graph below shows the level of difficulty with regards to recruitment:

Problems with recruitment centred around an insufficient number of applicants, low skill levels and lack of fit with the organisation.

A range of methods have been used for recruitment – with website and social media advertising being the most popular methods. The CELA job board was used by around 10 percent of members.

Your feedback indicates there are a high number of unfilled vacancies, with two-third of survey respondents who reported a vacancy indicating that they have at least one vacancy that they have been unable to fill, and 10 percent of services having five vacancies or more they cannot fill. Whilst the bulk of unfilled vacancies are for educators, around half of unfilled vacancies are across a variety of roles.

Your comments reinforce the survey results:

“Certificate 3 trained casual staff are very hard to find. It is tough to encourage potential educators to commit to studying a certificate 3 when pay rates are so low, and we can’t promise a permanent position.”

Issues contributing to the high level of vacancies include the flow of trained staff to the more highly paid school sector:

“The early childhood education and care sector can not compete with the mainstream education industry. Immediate attention to the current award is required if services are ever going to meet ECT requirements under the regulations.”

Services report a willingness to undertake a variety of strategies to build their workforce, with three-quarters of services willing to support staff to upskill, and half of surveyed services open to hiring a trainee.

What can be done to support workforce growth and retention?

Your feedback indicates a need to promote and attract additional students into early childhood education, particularly at Certificate III levels, which is beyond the capacity of individual services.

Pay and conditions, and the disparity between pay in early childhood education and school education remains an issue, although some above award services are struggling to fill vacancies.

Further support for upskilling and a professional advancement pathway are suggested to encourage staff to upskill with the proviso staff stay within early childhood education for a period of time once they graduate.

CELA will draw on your feedback throughout 2021 to advocate for a national workforce strategy that includes measures to attract, train and retain early childhood educators, a professional career path and consideration of wages and conditions needed to maintain a skilled workforce.

*Survey results reported are based on n=50 responses



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