Seeking the best for the OSHC sector – the Firefly story
From an adverse childhood, Firefly HR co-founder Barbi Clendining came to learn the transformative power of having one caring adult in a child’s life. After studying teaching, she began working in the outside school hours care (OSHC) sector, as it gave her the flexibility to work and manage carers duties. Now, she can’t imagine being anywhere else. Passionate about advocating for the OSHC sector as a “stand-alone” career path, she started a recruitment business, designed to source top-quality talent for the OSHC sector. Here, she shares her story with The Sector Assistant Editor Freya Lucas.
Interviewee: Barbi Clendining, Co-Founder
Organisation: Firefly HR
Topic: OSHC as a career path, advocacy, the importance of cultivating a space for OSHC as a career choice, flexible working arrangements.
Freya: How did you get your start in OSHC, and what drew you to working in this space?
Barbi: Like many others in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector, I fell into Out of School Hours Care (OSHC). I had always wanted to work with children due to a quite difficult upbringing. I had one teacher that noticed and made a difference, a big difference – by showing me compassion and that others cared. This led me on to the direction of wanting to be that positive difference to other children. Naturally I thought of teaching. As I hit 15 years of age I became the carer of my grandmother and still pursued finishing High School and a Primary Teaching Degree. Once finished, I found it difficult to assist my grandmother and teach due to the inflexibility of hours – so that’s how I fell into OSHC.
It’s been 10 years since I started working in OSHC and I’ve never looked back. Although I started in the sector because the hours suited my needs, I fell in love with it. I loved the focus on quality time with children, working on their social and emotional needs which teaching doesn’t give much time for (as you have everything else you are already trying to do). I love the connections you can make with families and children over the seven years of care, watching them grow, being there through their changing friendships and being a friendly face when they need it the most.
Adults often dismiss children too quickly, especially in this day and age of technology, and I enjoy encouraging other educators to focus more on the individual children and their needs. Not to dismiss them, not to be on devices, to listen to their voices and to always make them the first priority with a real connection.
Freya: What do you think needs to change, in terms of how OSHC is perceived by the education and care community?
Barbi: I think the biggest thing that needs to change is around knowledge. Knowledge is power and there is a lack of knowledge out there on OSHC and all that it encompasses (regulated industry, guided by a play-based framework focusing on social and emotional needs, and so much more). Even though I did Primary Teaching, I never thought twice about where the children went after school – I knew they were going to after school care, but didn’t think about it beyond that. I so often still have to explain what OSHC means and what I do to family, friends, and even those in similar professions such as teachers and early childhood educators.
Often others in childcare and education don’t realise that OSHC is a regulated sector, sitting under the ECEC umbrella; that OSHC has a learning framework, is assessed by the relevant state regulatory authority, and so much more. OSHC should be respected in just the same way as other forms of education and care.
It is a great subset of the ECEC sector that can make a fantastic career, there are so many amazing work opportunities but with little known about OSHC and its place in the sector, service providers often have positions which are left unfilled or without the right people for the roles.
For me, most importantly, it is a very rewarding career. You can make life-long positive impacts on children’s lives, and sometimes there is the opportunity for the children to come back and work in the service as they grow older and come to work with the service whilst they study at university (I’ve done this many times) or even as a profession.
Many students finish school wanting to become teachers or work in early childcare. I’m looking forward to the day when students start finishing school and want to become OSHC educators and leaders.
I think as OSHC educators we play an important part in educating others about the OSHC sector and sharing the message that working in OSHC is not a “placeholder” while you wait for a different job. OSHC is a professional career. OSHC educators need to stand proud when they talk about their career choice.
Freya: What would you recommend for people wishing to pursue OSHC as a career?
Barbi: Do it. If you have a passion to work with children, you will love OSHC and OSHC will love you. Just start. Be proactive, positive and show initiative. Do things with positive intentions at all times for the children. Educate yourself as much as you can, the learning doesn’t stop once you gain a qualification. Read up on the sector as much as you can – there are plenty of resources out there, such as The Sector website. Read widely – there are some great leadership resources which are not necessarily OSHC directed, but still relevant. Read. Research. Read again.
If you have a desire to be a Director/Co-ordinator in the future, there are a lot of qualities and skills that are needed that can be built upon – HR (appraisals, contracts), legal (policies), communication, problem solving, budgets, staffing and so much more on top of everything to do with the children.
Freya: Can you outline some of the lifestyle benefits of working OSHC hours?
Barbi: Flexibility. It is very easy to be flexible to suit your needs.
Change. It is never the same day-to-day, so there are no mundane moments.
Friendship. It gives opportunities to make some amazing friendships with other educators. Some of my best friendships now are other OSHC educators I’ve worked with.
Lifestyle. In general, lifestyle, if you work split shifts you can use the middle of the day for other things – head to the beach, catch up with friends, do errands so you can relax on the weekend – so many things you can’t do with a 9-5 job. My favourite things to do is walking the dog, day time sport (Taekwondo), getting the groceries done whilst the shops aren’t busy, prepping dinner, washing (I love washing) and making the most of your day.
Freya: Tell me more about Firefly, and why you’ve decided to focus attention particularly on OSHC.
Barbi: We’ve set up Firefly HR as an OSHC specific recruitment company. We currently offer permanent recruitment services and will be launching soon a temporary recruitment service via a specifically built app.
I feel to improve the quality of care provided to children, we first need to improve the quality of educators educating and caring for these children. Improving the calibre of people coming into the sector, will lift the quality of care provided. By improving, I mean empowering OSHC educators, encouraging others to it as a career and not just a stepping stone. Ensuring there is passion. Sharing knowledge.
I noticed a lack of support for OSHC services in regard to finding staff. No recruitment company specialises in only OSHC and for the ones that do assist in employing OSHC educators, it’s always at the bottom of their lists (or put in another category).
I wanted to single out a service offered for OSHC and OSHC only.
I’m also an OSHC Director myself. I’m an Educator. I get it. I have always been complimented on the educators at our service. I’m always asked how I find them. But I don’t, they are the same educators that apply to all centres and mostly from the local High School. The difference is being patient with the educators, understanding they are all unique and will contribute in their own unique way – just because one is great at playing games whilst another is excellent at helping parents doesn’t mean one is better than the other – they are just different. You need a variety of educators in the service and you need to embrace their different interest areas of where they naturally excel at.
Freya: What’s on the horizon for Firefly in 2019?
Barbi: One of my favourite things to use is the simple definition for innovation: “Innovation = change + action”. This is something that shapes everything we do in moving forward and growing Firefly HR.
One of our main focus points for 2019 centres on getting the OSHC word out there. We have recently attended a Mentor Masterclass with Mark Bouris and EdFest, which is Western Sydney University’s annual teaching careers expo. We are looking forward to promoting OSHC and in a variety of different forums, making more contact with Universities, Approved Providers, other professional organisations, and encouraging others to think about the sector. Even those with no intention to work in the sector, just getting OSHC to have more prominent name and to have it feature in the minds of others is also a goal.
We have been assisting OSHC centres with permanent recruitment and with today’s technologies we’ve been able to assist anywhere, not just in Sydney where we are based. We have an Australia wide reach, and we’re always keen to make new connections around the country.
In the next couple of months we’re launching the Firefly HR App – an OSHC specific app for the use of hiring temporary educators. We understand that centres are busy, but also have ratio requirements to adhere to. We wanted to make the process of getting temporary educators easier. That’s where the Firefly HR app will help.
OSHC services will be able to make a profile and include information about the service for potential educators to see. Services will be able to list a job with a few easy steps (select a date, times, other requirements such as qualifications or skills / attributes). The job will then be sent to educators that match the selected criteria, they will then have the opportunity to apply for the job.
Once applicants have selected the opportunity, services will then have the opportunity to select from those that apply to ensure they get the best fit for their centre for that day. Services will be able to view educator profiles, pictures, and learn more about the person who will be attending before they arrive at the service. Services will have the capacity to search for educators and save their favourites. Centres will get an invoice / make payment for the hours educators work and pay directly to Firefly HR.
For educators, the app will be free to use. Educators will be able to make a profile, include pictures, information about themselves, their qualifications, skills and attributes. Educators will be able to search centres and save their favourites. They will be able to apply for jobs posted or get push notifications about work that matches their needs and availability. An advantage for educators is that they are in control of where and when they work. Educators on the app will be employees of Firefly HR and paid by us.
We want to do things differently and like to think outside the box.
Freya: Anything else you’d like to share?
Barbi: Thank you. Thank you for allowing OSHC this platform. Looking forward to creating positive change with Firefly HR. Want to know any more about what we offer? Don’t hesitate to follow what we are up to on Facebook or email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll happily help you out.