Nearly half of ECEC’s current educators wouldn’t want others to follow their lead: HESTA survey
Despite being more than happy to recommend their employer, nearly half of those working in early childhood education and care (ECEC) would not advocate for others to follow in their footsteps, a new survey from industry super fund HESTA has found.
The State of the Sector 2021: Early Childhood Education and Care Workforce Insights report explored the working experience and attitudes of HESTA members, revealing that the ECEC sector – already facing chronic workforce shortages – faces significant challenges attracting and retaining talent.
Almost one in five ECEC professionals surveyed said they were considering leaving the sector within two years. Among the biggest issues were dissatisfaction with wages, feeling unappreciated by the community for their role as early educators, and a lack of opportunities for growth (promotion).
Despite those findings, the research showed that most respondents had positive sentiments across a range of measures relating to how ECEC professionals felt about their employers, with 87 per cent saying they felt somewhat or strongly appreciated by their employers during COVID-19.
Willingness to advocate for working in the sector was low, with 43 per cent of respondents described as “strong detractors” when it came to recommending a career in ECEC. Less than a third of respondents said they would strongly recommend a career in the sector.
“This research shows the big gap between how professionals feel about where they work and whether they see a long-term career in ECEC,” HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said.
“It’s great to see individual employers stepping up and supporting their employees, but unless the broader issues of low pay, a lack of development opportunities and community perception are addressed, the industry will face a chronic shortage of skilled professionals.”
In a 2019 workforce report on the future of the ECEC workforce, the independent Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) forecasted the sector will need more than 39,000 extra educators by 2023 – a 20 per cent increase in the workforce, meaning the findings are especially concerning.
To reach the findings, HESTA surveyed professionals working across health and community services in May 2019 and in July 2020. More than 4,800 members responded to the survey, including more than 360 ECEC professionals.
Questions looked at member’s job intentions, their employment satisfaction drivers, their attitudes towards their employer and industry, as well as how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their work, financial situation and industry outlook.
HESTA members working in ECEC had the lowest median super account balance of any industry cohort, with 74 per cent having a median account balance of less than $50,000. Hit hard by the pandemic, nearly 20 per cent of HESTA members working in ECEC also made a claim under the Federal Government’s early release of super (ERS) scheme. This group saw their median account balance fall by an average of 49 per cent.
“During the pandemic we saw the critical role our early educators play in supporting our community,” Ms Blakey said.
“When Australia faced the initial shock of COVID-19, early educators were there to support the push to protect our community. Now is the time to ensure a long-term, sustainably funded, early childhood education sector. But this funding must also look to lift low wages and improve conditions for those who are so vital to delivering these critical services.”
“We also saw just how precarious their employment and financial situation is. We know from the early release of super, the heartbreaking prevalence of financial hardship among these members and it points to the need to improve the quality and security of jobs in the sector,” she added.
Over a third of respondents reported that their household income was less than $60,000 and almost one in five reported their household earned less than $40,000.
To review the report in full, please see here.