Future Tracks is a ‘social enterprise’ which aims to support the next generation of early childhood educators with a new and unique approach to mentoring.*
“Future Tracks was created to shine a light on the value of the early childhood workforce, and the importance of Early Childhood Education in maintaining a quality future workforce,” says Future Tracks CEO Lucy Davidson, who comes to the role after working with the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation in Washington DC setting up their early childhood portfolio.
“Our mentoring program aims to provide clear higher education and career pathways, both for young people who have just finished high school, or taken a gap year and for educators who are already in the workforce.”
The Future Tracks Mentoring program was developed through a co-design process in 2019 involving early childhood professionals working in the sector, in educational institutions, with peaks and in regional and metropolitan settings.
It was developed in response to the urgent need to increase our workforce of Early Childhood Teachers by 29,000 and is based on findings of the Upskilling in Early Childhood (2019) report by Future Tracks and The Front Project. It identified that a key barrier to early childhood educators increasing their qualification to degree level is a lack of workplace support. In the report, Future Tracks proposed to contribute to addressing this barrier by developing ‘a new program that provides wraparound supports for educators looking to upskill.’
Some early childhood education organisations already have a strong culture of mentoring, and some higher education institutions teach mentoring skills or provide mentoring support for students. Future Tracks expands on this and takes mentoring to a new level.
What is new and unique about Future Tracks mentoring:
- Each mentor supports two student mentees – all three meet up to 6 times during semesters for dynamic 3-way conversations.
- Future Tracks provides training to mentors, organizational support and resources.
- Organisations receive a contribution from Future Tracks for mentors to be part of the program.
Future Tracks mentor Belle Lewis is a Practice Manager with KU Children’s Services in western Sydney. She has 20 years’ experience in the EC sector, mostly with local government.
The main difference between the Future Tracks mentoring program and previous experiences I’ve had being a mentor is the additional support I receive. It’s not just me and the person I’m mentoring involved, we are connected with Future Tracks, and people I can go to for support if I have any situations I need help with.
Belle mentors two students studying the Bachelor of Education, (Early Childhood Teaching) at Macquarie University. They have had two mentoring sessions so far. One of her ‘mentees’, Mary Banks said she really enjoys and values the mentoring sessions:
We’ve been able to talk about our upcoming first work placements. Belle has shared her own early experiences and been really helpful about what to expect, how to talk to the children and the other staff. Belle said every child and family can have their own situations, and how important it is to relate to every child and get informed about what’s going on with them in their life.
Future Tracks CEO Lucy Davidson says the program is designed to provide professional development support to Mentors as well as supporting the students.
Our mentoring program was designed to build a culture of mentoring in the Early Childhood sector. To add value to the Early Childhood Teachers who are the mentors, to provide them with quality professional development and an ongoing learning opportunity, as well as to students who are currently enrolled in bachelor programs who obviously benefit from the expertise and knowledge that the mentors share with them.
An extra benefit Belle is experiencing as a mentor is receiving access to current learning techniques – such as online modules, and recent academic papers that the students share with her and Future Tracks.
I’ve been able to share these readings with my team (at KU) and it’s keeping us up to date on the latest Early Childhood research and information.
Belle hopes that having a direct connection to a practising early childhood teacher will encourage both her mentees to choose careers in early childhood rather than primary teaching.
Mary feels very supported both by Belle, her mentor, and her fellow student mentee, Saarina.
I think it’s very beneficial. I can send Belle a message at any time (during the semester) and ask her questions, we can contact her whenever we need to. Saarina and I are doing similar classes and now we bounce ideas off each other as well.
Future Tracks currently provides mentors for students studying with university partners in NSW, Queensland and Victoria: Macquarie University, Queensland University of Technology and La Trobe University. Lucy Davidson would like to see the program available to students in more universities in future.
Early Childhood organisations can seek more information here
Students seeking mentors can apply to Future Tracks here and get more information here
Early childhood teachers who want to get involved in mentoring can find out more here
* Future Tracks is an initiative of The Front Project, an independent national enterprise working with government, business and the ECEC sector to create positive change in Australia’s early childhood education system.
Upskilling in early childhood education: Opportunities for the current workforce Future Tracks 2019
Further reading on mentoring in Early Childhood Education:
Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.