With waves of children flooding into early learning centres across the country there is now an increasing demand for high-quality teaching staff. The question is: are our institutions preparing students adequately for the real-life demands of the job?
This increase has sharpened the competition among schools vying to attract kids to their institute, which is thought to be resulting in higher levels of service and parallel increases in expectation from parents.
So, are graduates across the sector ready to take on the increasing responsibility and give young children the best possible start to their education?
Early childhood education teacher and trainer, Sabrina Ariza-Giraldo is sceptical of the quality of some graduate teachers entering the workplace.
“No one talks about it, because it's hard... but from my professional point of view, [I question] the quality of education ”.
She says, even though all vocational training institutes (VET) offering early childhood education programs follow a national framework the outcomes are not the same for graduates across institutes.
“When you are in the VET sector, everyone needs to comply with the same standards… but the reality is, when the students go to the real workplace they sometimes don’t have the required knowledge and skills to work with children.”
Sabrina’s own children attend early learning centres and says she sees graduates who aren’t ready to have professional conversations with parents, comply with basic regulations, or communicate with children effectively.
She says, these are all complicated tasks requiring experience to learn and she says the best way for students is with hands-on training, work placements and traineeships.
Sabrina says this is the reason students at Melbourne Polytechnic are required to complete 210 hours of work placement, which is almost double the hours many other institutes require. It gives students exposure to real-world situations 35 hours a week for 6 weeks.
“We require our students to go on work placement and actually show the skills required to finish the course.”
And, to make these experiences as useful as possible for students, she says: “We visit the students on placements… we go and see if the students need guidance or support and make sure they have the knowledge to apply their skills.”
In what is hopefully a positive change for the industry, from 2019 government funding for early years education and care courses will be for traineeships only. In a traineeship, students are required to secure a job at a registered childcare service or centre before they begin their studies. Instead of learning primarily in the classroom, in a traineeship, students learn as they work from teachers who act as coach and mentor.
Our advice to potential students and trainees:
Find a course offering a mix of hands-on training and as much experience as possible through work placements.
Be proactive in finding a job that values you will be studying.
Look to study with a provider that offers support while you are on the job through mentoring expertise.
Look at traineeships as being an exciting opportunity to begin work straight away.
With the total number of children attending early learning centres growing by at least 20 per cent since 2011, there are plenty of opportunities for those wanting to enter the childcare industry.
If you are interested in a career in childcare, take a look at our hands-on Certificate III in Early Childhood Education.
Image: Connor Baker
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