Sonas centres are partnering with local high schools to help address major shortages of qualified early childhood educators across the sector.
The initiative, which has started at Sonas Coolbellup, hopes to shore up a pipeline of vocational education and training (VET) students and secondary graduates with an interest in careers as early childhood educators and teachers.
Sonas Coolbellup has established a formal partnership with Lakeland Senior High School in South Lake, and it is envisaged that every Sonas centre will team up with at least one local high school to help future-proof the dwindling workforce.
It comes as the Australian Childcare Alliance released data in June, revealing childcare centres struggling with severe workforce shortages had resorted to capping enrolments because they did not have enough staff to meet legal educator-child ratio requirements.
It is estimated that the sector needs at least 10,000 trained educators and teachers to fill current vacancies.
Sonas Senior Centre Manager Tori Templeman said capturing the ‘next generation’ of educators while they were considering future career options could attract more staff to the local workforce.
“It’s no secret there is a workforce crisis and there are lots of families that can’t access early learning and childcare options because centres have capped numbers,” Tori said.
“Young people in high school are the future of the early learning sector. We are trying to create solid foundations for those who are genuine about early childhood and establish connections those early on.
“I have contacted a local high school in close proximity to each of our Sonas centres, so essentially it is my aim to have all of the centres engage with a local high school as part of this new partnership.”
Under the Sonas Coolbellup trial, a Year 11 Lakeland Senior High School student attends the centre one day a week as part of the VET program. The placement has led to casual employment during school holidays.
In addition, Sonas staff attended a Careers’ Week expo at Lakeland Senior High School in early June, offering advice to students interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education.
Another high school student from a different school has taken a traineeship at Sonas Atwell, working a couple of hours after school.
Tori hoped the initiative would lead to more young people engaging in fulfilling careers as early childhood educators and teachers.
“These partnerships may also translate to paid casual employment for young people and help the centres with additional casual staff, particularly during school holidays,” she said.
Australian Childcare Alliance President Paul Mondo said the shortage of qualified early childhood educators and teachers was the single most pressing issue facing Australia’s early learning sector.
“Right now, we urgently need at least 10,000 well-trained, competent early childhood educators and teachers to fill vacancies,” Mr Mondo said.
“We simply do not have enough people to meet the demand for early learning and care, whilst also remaining compliant with the educator-ratios put in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and staff alike.”