Swinburne Online helps to build a village of ECTs to combat workforce shortages
With the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to children’s social and emotional development, having kind, consistent and compassionate educators and early childhood teachers (ECTs) is more important to families than ever before. After all, as the saying goes “it takes a village to raise a child” and knowing and trusting the other villagers is very important.
For children who struggle with separating from their primary caregivers, the ongoing workforce shortages affecting the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector have added a complicated element to an already fraught experience, with children being confronted with unfamiliar faces at a time when they need comfort the most.
Educators, too, are feeling the stress of backfilling roles or taking on additional duties in the absence of coworkers. For many, it’s been a long few years, and as a result, it’s no secret both within and outside the sector that things are now at a crisis point.
Fewer people are choosing ECEC as a career, and graduates from early childhood teaching (ECT) degrees are dwindling, despite the presence of some powerful incentives, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales.
Despite these challenges, many policy makers, advocates, and tertiary institutions are seeking innovative solutions to support educators and ECTs to feel supported, to develop as professionals, have their expertise recognised, and their voices heard.
Current projections suggest that more than one in ten early childhood services need a government waiver to legally operate because they do not have enough ECEC professionals to meet requirements, with ECTs being in particularly strong demand.
While the crucial impact that ECEC educators and ECTs play in shaping the learning and development of children is in no doubt, the importance that these professionals play in supporting other professionals, particularly women, to participate in the workforce is now being more valued.
The impact of the pandemic has also sharpened the needs of educators and ECTs, with many seeking “more than just passion” to sustain them through tough times. Wages, career progression, professional development opportunities and recognition have left many asking “what’s next?”
A teaching qualification that matches up with the real world
Historically, the decision to take on a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Teaching) has meant a four-year commitment to study, which often needs to be worked around a part-time or full-time job, commitments to family and relationships, and time away from the workforce to complete practicum placements, something which has been time and cost prohibitive for many.
For those already working in the ECEC sector, leaving their service to undertake all their placements can create a significant barrier to upskilling to be an ECT, often times leaving their service short-staffed, and interrupting the continuity of care for children.
Swinburne Online has recognised these challenges, creating a unique learning option which responds to the dynamic needs of the ECEC sector.
The Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Teaching, offered through Swinburne Online, gives current and emerging ECEC professionals the opportunity to become qualified ECTs with a ‘learn while you earn’ approach.
Combining theory and practical components, and with three out of four placements undertaken in the ECEC workplace, the course overcomes the barriers of placements, recognises the skills ECEC professionals bring to their ECT study, and can be completed within just 12 months – breaking down barriers to upskill, and rapidly addressing the serious ECT labour supply issues being faced in the ECEC sector.
The Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Teaching paves the way to becoming a qualified teacher with an expert understanding in educational theory and pedagogical practices, building on the depth of experience many educators already hold, and offering a specialised opportunity to translate that into a teaching qualification.
Swinburne Online’s Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Teaching is taught by highly experienced ECTs who are also expert online teachers, making the qualification an opportunity to match theory with practice and specialised insights about the reality of being an ECT in a contemporary ECEC sector.
Learners taking this course are experienced ECEC professionals choosing to upskill, and as such this pathway supports those who would be considered to be ‘non-traditional’ students who may not have studied for some time, who are mature aged, and they may live in regional or remote locations.
“Life circumstances shouldn’t be a barrier for those wanting to learn – and in turn wanting to apply that learning to educate and nurture children,” explained Swinburne’s Online Academic Director Samar Zutshi. Understanding this, Swinburne Online has built in high levels of support from teachers who can cater to the unique needs of these students.
Designed with the sector in mind
The unique course was co-designed with Swinburne Online, Swinburne University of Technology and critically, with ECEC sector experts including the Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA) and the College for Australian Early Childhood Education (CAECE).
Key to the success of the course model is the capacity to complete the majority of the required practicum placements onsite at current ECEC workplace.Using a workplace-based internship model with one alternative setting experience, three of the professional experience placements are held at the learner’s workplace, minimising the need to take time off work and disrupt continuity of care for children. Course theory and professional experience placement is applied within each of the four units of study that comprise the qualification.
Learning as part of an ECEC community of practice gives students the opportunity to explore a diversity of knowledge, perspectives and lived experiences, and in tandem with coursework and simulated classroom experiences, giving exciting insights into pedagogy and practice, and ultimately supporting the development of the teacher, their young learners children and broader communities.
After all, understanding how life unfolds in other ‘villages’ supporting children is one of the best ways to truly build a society which values children, and those who educate and care for them.
Applications for the accelerated Graduate Diploma of Early Childhood Teaching are open now via Swinburne Online.
With four teaching intakes each year, educators have the flexibility and opportunity to start when suits them best.
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