CHILDCARE workers upgrading their qualifications would have tuition fees covered under an apprenticeship scheme to ease the chronic skills shortage in the sector, in a recommendation by leading industry group Care For Kids.
Providers are still struggling to meet standards introduced in January that require half of all staff to have, or be working towards, a diploma in early childhood education and remaining staff to hold a certificate III qualification.
Services with more than 25 children are required to employ a university-qualified early childhood teacher under the National Quality Framework, which aims to lift young children’s learning.
But the cost of further study is a deterrent to staff earning as little as $19 an hour.
Roxanne Elliott, co-founder of childcare resource website Care For Kids, is calling for an early years apprenticeship scheme to subsidise courses.
A certificate III can cost up to $4000, a diploma up to $13,000 and a tertiary degree up to $24,000.
“We think an apprenticeship scheme could work well because it provides an incentive to attract quality staff to the sector,” she said.
Such an apprenticeship scheme, worth up to $3700, has been introduced in Britain where the childcare sector is also introducing more rigorous qualifications.
More than one-third of Australian services are not meeting the new standards under the National Quality Framework and almost 5 per cent have applied for waivers as they are unable to meet requirements, based on the latest data from the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority.
In its submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning, Care For Kids recommends the apprenticeship scheme, as well as making on-the-job experience equivalent to formal qualifications in appropriate cases.