Having a team of passionate and highly skilled educators is integral to your centre's success. We had a chat with Childcare Centre Director Gen to learn how to find and keep quality early childhood educators.
To this day, I can still remember my kindergarten teacher, Ms Brind.
She was enthusiastic and kind, and earnestly addressed every question, comment, and concern that my busy 4-year-old brain would conjure.
Although I didn’t know it then, Ms Brind instilled in me a desire to be curious, the confidence that what I thought mattered, and the courage to step in, not stand back.
The Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector, understandably, depends on quality educators like Ms Brind to ensure children receive the best possible start to life and school. However, attracting and retaining a highly skilled workforce has become a challenge for the sector.
While many industry bodies cite changes to policies, procedures, and wages, among other things, as a remedy for this challenge, Childcare Centre Directors can make their own changes now to attract and retain quality childcare staff.
What do we mean when we say quality?
When it comes to hiring staff for your childcare centre, it’s important to remember that interpersonal skills and behavioural qualities are just as important as qualifications.
According to Gen, Centre Director at A Head Start Children’s Centre (where a number of educators have worked since the centre opened in 2009), quality educators are those who are truly passionate about connecting with children to help them grow and succeed.
“One of the first qualities I look for when employing educators is how that person engages with the children, as it shows whether or not they have a true passion for the industry,” she said.
“I’m looking for people who are eager to get involved and connect with the children, who will, for example, immediately kick off their shoes and join them in the sandpit.
“I look for that confidence, passion, positive attitude and kindness,” she said.
“And it’s not just how the educators engage and speak with the children, but also that they can respectfully engage with their co-educators and the children’s families, as well.”
How does a childcare business benefit from quality staff?
Having a team of passionate and highly skilled educators leads to better outcomes for children, which in turn attracts more customers and improves occupancy.
“As childcare businesses, we all strive to have 100% occupancy, and when new families tour our centre, they will often want to know how long our staff have been here,” Gen said.
“A centre that boasts longevity of staff is one where, likely, the educators are happy, fulfilled, and therefore good at what they do. As quality educators equals better outcomes for children, more parents are willing to enrol their children here.”
At the same time, a workplace where educators are employed long-term points to a work environment that is positive, engaging and respectful, and one where the educators feel they can grow, personally and professionally.
Employing great educators, therefore, can also reduce staff turnover and continue to attract quality educators, as your centre becomes known as an amazing workplace.
“For me, having a good team means that everything can run smoothly. There is no need to micromanage when the team collaborates well, respects each other, and has a good work ethic. I am free to tackle other duties I have as a Centre Director,” Gen said.
So, what can Childcare Centre Directors do now to attract and retain quality staff?
Partner with a Registered Training Organisation (RTO)
A Head Start Children’s Centre has worked with Amazing Education & Training for six years.
There are many benefits to working closely with an RTO, the most significant being that you gain insight into each of the students’ strengths, weaknesses, and work ethic as they undertake their early childhood education and care training.
“Most of our new hires come through Amazing Education,” Gen said, “It’s great for us because we can choose students who are willing to learn and have really excelled throughout their training.
“An added benefit is that these students already know our centre’s policies and procedures, so they can fit right into our daily operations from day one.”
Ask the right questions in the interview
Before you invite candidates for an interview, be sure you know exactly what traits and skills you seek. That way, you can tailor questions to help find exactly what you need.
“I always ask potential new educators why they've chosen this profession,” Gen reveals.
“Again, this can quickly indicate if they are truly passionate about working with children.”
“I also like to ask candidates what special skills they can bring to the team. For example, some of our educators are qualified yoga instructors, so they can do yoga with the children. But a special skill can simply be that you are really crafty. I like to work with educators’ skills, strengths and passions, to help keep them engaged and to deliver the best quality education and care for the children.”
Of course, you should always thoroughly complete reference and background checks, no matter how well you think you know and like a candidate.
Employ trainees and apprentices
Centre Directors should feel positive about employing student trainees and apprentices who are brand-new to the industry.
“Students who have just signed up to complete their Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care or who have recently graduated with a Diploma come with fresh ideas and passion for the industry,” Gen said.
“It’s nice to have a combination of both experienced educators and new educators we can train, as they can encourage us to try new and different things and revitalise our own passion for the industry, too.”
Implement work trials into your hiring process
A Head Start Children’s Centre invites candidates (including trainees and apprentices) to complete a minimum half-day trial. It allows the team to see the candidate interacting in their environment and with their educators.
“The trial shift really helps us to determine if the candidate is going to be suitable for the position,” Gen said.
“It also gives the candidate a good indication of whether they actually want this role. After all, you can sometimes sign up to something and then find out it wasn’t what you expected at all.”
Encourage and provide opportunities for professional development
If the work environment is one where employees simply ‘tick the boxes’ and leave for the day, how will they keep engaged and inspired in their careers?
As humans, we love to learn and experience new challenges, and Centre Directors should ensure that they encourage their educators to keep learning, growing, challenging themselves and – of course – having fun.
“I try and involve the team in as many professional development opportunities as possible to keep them engaged and focused,” Gen said. “For example, two of my educators have signed up for an indigenous walk with an Aboriginal leader next month.”
“I also encourage peer-to-peer mentoring, so our educators are always learning from each other. For instance, one team member can meet with another to provide ideas and tips on creating a puppet show. Then, the next day that team member can educate another on something entirely different.
“This also fosters a wonderful team environment.”
If you have any questions about studying or working in Early Childhood Education and Care, please get in touch or give us a call on 1300 707 058.