Thrive by Five calls on all levels of Government to urgently address workforce shortages
Advocacy campaign Thrive by Five is calling on Federal, state and territory governments to urgently address the workforce shortages plaguing many early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, lamenting the “thousands of job vacancies, high staff turnover and inadequate pay and conditions for too many early years educators”.
The call follows a recent submission made by Thrive by Five to the Ten-Year National Children’s Education and Care Workforce Strategy via the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) feedback survey, calling for the Federal Government to prepare detailed workforce planning, including an outline of the number of vacancies that are expected in the next few years, and a detailed strategy to address workforce supply to fill the gap.
Using statistics and data from a recent analysis of the Seek jobs website, conducted on 1 June 2021, Thrive by Five found the number of Seek job vacancies for early childhood teachers and educators is more than 12,000, meaning that “for every 13 educators, there is still one missing.”
“For a workforce of about 170,000, this is extremely high at about 7 per cent,” a spokesperson said. 10 per cent of all long day care centres in Australia currently hold a waiver from regulators because they could not meet staffing requirements, Thrive by Five said.
The combination of high demand and a lack of employment opportunities means that conditions for educators “are often quite shocking,” and pre-COVID staff turnover was estimated at up to 30 per cent.
In 2019 ACECQA Employment Projections for the five years to May 2024 suggested that ECEC will require approximately 24,000 additional educators (a 12 per cent increase) and 7,000 additional teachers (a 16 per cent increase), estimates which are much higher than the 7.8 per cent growth expected across the whole economy.
A sense of urgency to address the early education workforce crisis was missing from the ACECQA consultation, Thrive by Five CEO Jay Weatherill said, noting that “if governments weren’t careful, Australia could end up with a workforce crisis similar to that seen in the aged care sector.”
As well as the material impacts of this challenge, Mr Weatherill expressed his concern that children are missing out on early learning and parents are missing out on being able to work because of systemic early childhood workforce challenges.
“This is an impending disaster that has not been adequately addressed by government consultation. We need accurate targets, strategies and funding to fill in the supply gap and make a difference now before it’s too late,” he said.
“The major issue is improving the conditions for teachers and educators in the sector. This would be the single biggest tactic we can employ to stabilise the sector and attract and retain educators. This will in turn improve employee wellbeing and the sector’s sense of professional value.”
Mr Weatherill ended his statements by urging the Federal Government to “do a more fundamental rethink” and address a sector “in urgent need of reform for the sake of essential workers and future generations”.
More information about the advocacy work of Thrive by Five may be found on its website, here.