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Influencing the future - careers in Early Years Education

Teachers are in high demand and the Victorian Government is investing $5 billion to fund three-year-old kindergarten places across the state – all of these children will need an additional 6000 trained staff to educate and care for them. There’s never been a better time to study for a career in early childhood education and care. 

This government initiative, with a ten-year implementation frame, allows for an extra year of play-based learning for Victorian children’s education. This learning is led by qualified teachers. 

Students studying Melbourne Polytechnic’s early years education programs have been successful in securing employment before they finish their studies, entering the workforce as . There are scholarships, financial incentives and Free TAFE places to aide and support.

Pathway up the teaching ladder 

From most entry point you can pathway into further studies that lead to employment in early childhood settings such as kindergartens and primary schools. 

The entry level qualification is the Certificate III in of Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC30121), which runs for six months full-time. It can lead into the Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care (CHC50121); a duration of 18 months and can provide subject credits toward the Bachelor of Education (Early Years and Primary). Free TAFE places are available for both of these certificates. 

Early exit degree options

There is also a two-year Associate Degree of Early Years Studies, which can lead into the Bachelor, and they are both supported by the Commonwealth Supported Places, so the government pays part of your fees.  

Early Years Education Programs Leader Melissa Smith says the Certificate III and Diploma are for people who ‘want to have a meaningful role with children under school age, to educate them, and inspire them and develop them into their full potential before they hit the school environment’. 

Energy and enthusiasm is key 

‘You've got to have energy, you've got to have personality traits of being prepared to have a question being asked of you a hundred times a day by children. You’ve got to want to sit there in a sandpit or near the mud pile or at a paint table, wherever it might be, and be thoroughly involved.  

‘You've got to be prepared to work in a team environment, to get your hands dirty. But also one of the wonderful things is that you're going to be in a job with no two days are the same.’ 

Dr Elly Thomson, Head of Program for Bachelor of Education, Early Years and Primary, says the pathways work all the way from the Certificate III to Bachelor. The Associate Degree is also provides two years of credit into the Bachelor and on completion you can work in early childhood services while you complete the Bachelor.  

The importance of health and well-being

The Bachelor degree students graduate as generalist primary teachers, with a specialisation in literacy, and another in health and well-being, and Melbourne Polytechnic is the only institution that offers this health and well being stream.  

‘It's health and well-being the students are attracted to. We have a big focus on social justice and diversity and inclusion in our course,’ Elly says. 

One of the key priorities in this program is to ensure that Melbourne Polytechnic students are receiving a realistic simulated experience. Small class sizes mean teachers and lecturers can hone in on an individuals needs and offer customised support.

Simulated learning environment  

The childcare facilities at Preston campus are designed to simulate a working early-learning environment; playgroups come on to campus so Melbourne Polytechnic students get to practice in small and informal spaces before they head into placements as part of their qualification requirements. Students are assisted in finding their placements, which often lead to employment. 

‘When they go out on placement over 60% of our students walk away with job offers and that's before they even qualify.’ Melissa says. 

Metropolitan population growth brings career opportunities  

‘This industry has always been a growing industry. As metropolitan Melbourne grows so does the early childhood sector. There is an amazing array of job opportunities for students, whether they be casual, part-time, full-time, permanent. 

‘And it’s not just open to school leavers. We have students coming into our courses who could be 18, but also who could be 35 or 40 or above. It’s a great idea also if you're also looking for a career change. 

‘The industry itself is very diverse, because of that childcare centres and schools really appreciate having people who can speak more than one language, who’ve got an understanding of certain family cultural needs.’ 

A life-long career

With the Bachelor course, Elly says teachers are currently in very high demand and can be considered and developed into a life-long career.  

‘Eighty per cent of our graduates are employed straight away or before they finish.  

‘It's one of the most secure careers, as people have seen during COVID because teachers have kept their job and their wage,’ she says. ‘There's actually been a bit of a push for those kind of careers as people think “What can I do that's going to be really stable?” 

‘An Australian qualification is recognised globally as being a good qualification, they can teach in Australia, they can teach overseas. There's lots of opportunity to travel and teach. Teaching in remote communities, those kind of things are in high demand.  

‘It's different every day. Your form great connections with children in your classroom, you can influence the future. We can make a real difference in children's lives'.