Eurobodalla wait lists top 400 as parents scramble for care solutions
Families in the Eurobodalla region on the South Coast of New South Wales are being left without care as the impact of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce crisis deepens.
Preschools and long day care settings across the region are operating under capacity because they cannot source sufficient staff to keep up with the demand from families for care, with 400 children under the age of five remaining on waiting lists.
The Sunshine Bay Early Learning Centre has been operating at 50 per cent capacity since it opened in November 2021 due to the shortages, with owner Lisa Dixon, who also operates the Broulee Early Learning Centre being candid that she has struggled to attract trained senior staff, despite advertising locally and out of the area.
“There’s a shortage of fully-trained early childhood teachers across the sector and we need to find ways to fill that hole,” she told local news source About Regional.
“We need to sit down and talk to our educators about what would make it more attractive for them to do their uni degrees and up-skill.”
As a start, she would like to see an incoming Government offering more support for University courses which she believes would attract more young people to the ECEC sector, and encourage existing professionals to to upgrade their qualifications.
In the meantime she has placed a strong emphasis on seccion planning and mentoring within her services, hiring 20 trainees in two years across both services.
“We saw this was going to happen so we’ve put a new trainee in each of our rooms every 12 months, and they have senior mentors who spend time nurturing them,” she told About Regional.
“Last year’s trainees are doing their diploma this year and will then go on to do their bachelor’s degree.”
While proposing ideas to beat the crisis she said she would also like to see the Government provide opportunities for staff to study at work because many ECEC professionals also have young children and that makes completing a qualification challenging.
Problem at a regional level
Eurobodalla Shire Council Community Development Manager Kim Bush said almost all local centres have staff vacancies, with some forced to close their doors at short notice due to COVID-related staff shortages.
A forum about the shortages was held recently at Batemans Bay, with issues of lower-than-average pay rates for qualified staff, no locally-based training options, a national operating framework placing additional administrative burden on centres and a lack of health and support services being highlighted.
An action plan has since been put in place, which includes advocating for government-subsidised wages, more collaboration across the sector and reinstating early childhood courses at the local TAFE campuses.
Ms Bush said the impact goes far beyond mums and dads scrambling to find care for children, noting flow-on effects to the mental health of staff, children’s well-being and development and the local economy.
Ms Bush said Eurobodalla Council will be “demanding action and advocating to anyone who will listen”.
“We’re calling for more government investment in our most precious assets – our children – and for universal principles so everyone can access early learning,” she said.
To access the original coverage of this story please see here.
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