New program aims to remove barriers to early childhood education study in Canberra
A new program is supporting women to enter the early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce which will support them both financially and emotionally.
The $2.125 million Early Learning Connection Program will help up to 260 women to complete a Certificate III, Diploma or Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education in Canberra, and is aimed at women either entering the early childhood education workforce for the first time or those already in the sector who are wishing to upskill.
Significantly, there are no caveats to be part of the program, meaning participants can come from anywhere in the country and decide to take up a job outside of the ACT once their studies are complete.
Bronwyn Maher was part of the program’s pilot in 2023. She had already enjoyed 16 years of experience working in the ECEC sector, but wanted to expand her knowledge. She had tried studying online, but said she found the experience “incredibly overwhelming” and faced barriers around placements, financial stress, balancing parenting, work and study.
“Joining the Early Learning Connection Program made me feel confident, empowered me and provided me with the support I needed in order to be successful in my studies,” she shared with The Riot ACT.
Participants receive financial assistance and help with facilitating employment opportunities in early childhood centres while studying. They also have access to their own educator coach to help them balance work, study, life commitments and wellbeing.
For those in the program who have children five years of age or younger, the educator coach can provide support in accessing ECEC to allow women to work or study.
The program will be facilitated by Baringa, in partnership with the University of Canberra, Canberra Institute of Technology, Australian Institute of Management and early learning centres across the ACT.
Leanne Niven and Aimee Hedgecoe have been accepted into the program, and will use it to gain a Bachelor qualification with the intention of becoming an early childhood teacher.
Ms Niven, who has 12 years of experience in the sector, has found further study challenging due to financial constraints, and believes that gaining her degree will allow her to not only progress in her career, but also to improve the way she educates children.
“I do have a lot of experience but … I just want to have a better understanding of child development and keep learning so I can help them learn and develop,” she said.
Ms Hedgecoe is a recent high school graduate and feels that having access to an educator coach and mentor will help her to juggle part time study and work, having struggled somewhat with her studies in Year 12.
“It’s going to be amazing to have someone who I can actually go to for help,” she said.
“I’m really hoping I can follow this career and do it forever.”
The program is only available to women, which ACT Education Minister Yvette Berry said was by design.
“In a workforce that is female-dominated, this is a really important initiative because it does give them the chance to study with the financial pressure alleviated,” she shared with The Riot ACT.
“We want to make sure we have the best and most highly qualified workforce, but we can’t do that without providing funding and those important wraparound supports.”
The original coverage of the story is available here.
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