The early childhood education and care workforce has been growing over time to meet increased demand with around 150,000 teachers and educators currently employed in the system. Latest employment projections suggest we will require 30,000 additional educators and 7,000 additional teachers by May 2024. There have been declining enrolments in both ECEC diploma and degree courses in recent years which means the pipeline of future employees is smaller. The figures do not account for any impact of COVID-19 on workforce retention or attrition. There are pressing issues with the attraction, development and retention of the workforce, and a need to focus on workforce quality.
These findings align with what you’ve told us – that is it getting harder to recruit staff at all levels, that educator wellbeing has been compromised during COVID-19, that pay rates remain a barrier to retaining staff and that the quality of graduates, especially from vocational education and training, is variable.
Why a workforce strategy is needed
ACECQA notes that a wide range of initiatives are underway such as scholarships, new courses, grants and other financial incentives in addition to above award pay and conditions. However, these solutions are operating within jurisdictions or by employers, so we cannot benefit from economies of scale or learn from and apply what works more broadly. The goal of a new national strategy is to ensure we have the high-quality workforce that meets the needs of children and families. The proposed strategy is focused on six areas with a range of initiatives that include the following focus areas:
PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION – Workforce professional standing, including pay and conditions, registration, and community perceptions and value.
Sample actions and initiatives: Teacher and educator registration consistency, improve pay and conditions, mentoring, consistent terminology.
ATTRACTION AND RETENTION – Workforce diversity, including attracting the right people into the sector, and valuing and retaining high calibre staff.
Sample actions and initiatives: Targeted programs to support completions, streamline overseas approvals, provision of accessible resource to support career pathways.
LEADERSHIP AND CAPABILITY – Workforce culture, including professional development, leadership and mentoring, and management capability.
Sample actions and initiatives: Core PD, micro-credentials, leadership and mentoring network, reviewing leadership resources.
WELLBEING – Helping service providers to have strong mental health and wellbeing supports for their workforce.
Sample actions and initiatives: Employee assistance programs. Resources and monitoring wellbeing.
QUALIFICATIONS AND CAREER PATHWAYS – Supporting quality, improving consistency and reducing complexity, as well as enabling flexible career progression.
Sample actions and initiatives: Improve consistency in qualifications, review Initial Teacher Education to ensure focus on ECEC, focus on VET quality.
DATA AND EVIDENCE – Enhanced national data collection, analysis, and strategic discussion.
Sample actions and initiatives: Biennial workforce census, live national database, evaluation plan for workforce strategy.
ACECQA has prepared an online survey that asks you
for your level of support for each action or initiative in the six focus areas,
their importance, and to suggest any other actions, initiatives or comments
including timeframes and responsibilities.
Other issues CELA will be raising:
CELA notes the workforce strategy needs to address a wide range of issues. These centre on how to develop a sufficient pipeline, how to recognise, reward and retain staff, and how to ensure continual quality improvement by supporting workforce development. There are a range of issues not currently addressed or well addressed in the ACECQA paper that CELA will be raising including:
1. BUILDING the workforce
- Ensuring students complete their qualifications – currently only half of students complete. Key barriers to completion include studying part time. How can we reduce attrition?
- Smoothing the transition from completion to work – ½ of all completers enter the ECEC workforce. What could improve this?
- Ensuring students are well prepared when they enter ECEC – relying on ASQA as a regulator is not ensuring we get quality graduates. What are other options?
- Matching community diversity with workplace diversity. Can we expand access to ECEC in CALD communities and rural and regional communities by growing our own workforce?
- What incentives are needed to draw ECEC teachers back from schools, especially in hard to staff rural and regional areas
2. RETAINING the workforce
- What supports, in addition to wages, would assist educators and teachers to remain in the workforce?
- Do we have the current wages structures correct? The salary difference between a diploma and a certificate qualified educator is low – does this need to be addressed given the added complexity of diploma qualified staff roles?
- How can we support professional working environments in ECEC?
3. DEVELOPING the workforce
- What models of professional learning are needed to support continual professional development?
- How can we ensure the workforce has paid time to upskill?