A professional career structure – we need to start the discussions to get it built.

Imagine for a moment, we wake up tomorrow morning and Australia has no Educators. Imagine every education and care (child care) service is closed.

Imagine they all got a job as, well, lets look at that – if they left for more money, what might they choose? One example:

1st year Educator

Children’s services employee level 1.1 on entry $771.00$20.29
Source: Pay guides – Minimum wages – Fair Work Ombudsman

Call Centre employee (a role with less responsibility)

Customer contact trainee$805.10$21.19
Source: Pay guides – Minimum wages – Fair Work Ombudsman

Suddenly, the prospect of Educators choosing other work doesn’t seem so improbable, does it?

Why do Educators choose their current role?

I asked 5 Educators:

  • ‘I wanted to work with children’ (Educator 22yr old)
  • ‘I wanted to do something like this – I may go on to teach’ (Educator 20 yr old)
  • ‘It was available’ (Educator 54 yr old)
  • ‘My school sent me here for work experience’ (Educator 18 yr old)
  • ‘I really love it – I thought I might, it’s working out’. (Educator 23 yr old)

All of these Educators agreed on one thing – if money elsewhere gets much better, they would definitely leave early childhood. ( Meeting: Educators, various employers November 2019)

The question then is …

What would make it worth staying?

Is it just the money?

No, but the money is critical. I am sick of people saying we get a reward from loving the job. No-one asks Nurses to accept loving the job as payment! I have responsibility for a room of 20 children. Their early learning here is in my hands. If I don’t do this right, each child suffers. If I do it wrong, I get prosecuted under our law. Teachers and nurses have a great rate, and a great career. I want that, but right now, I have to leave to get it.” (Educator 23 yr old)

The structure of a career in early childhood

A career must have a pathway, that pathway is a structure. The structure guides the careers of everyone in that profession, and it has an impact on everyone who interacts with that profession – and so their perspectives must be considered:

What needs to be considered in the development of a career structure?

For the Educator

  • Qualifications – Requirements for entry level and advanced practice; Supported by an ongoing pathway of ongoing professional learning that is research based, specialty specific, quality assured, credited and cumulative.
  • Career structure – Entry level, Specialization (Practicing), and Advanced practice; Supported by staged qualification requirements; Stage specific salary levels to draw practitioners forward
  • Remuneration – Developed around expert level with beginning practitioner below that and advanced practitioner above that; Portability across the profession to like positions; Parity with comparable level positions

For the community

  • Reassurance of quality – Research base; Regulatory Framework; Standards of Practice; Guidelines; Positions statements; Practice support; Related agency consideration
  • Protection – Regulation; High shared expectations; Quality monitoring and assurance
  • Accountability – Linked research, qualifications, and professional learning with practice, requirements and accountability all well understood; Clear Educator identity and shared understanding of purpose; accountability mechanisms well versed in the profession.

For children and families

  • Focus on the child – Research based; Democratic; Rights framed; ‘That the rights and best interests of the child are paramount’1
  • Seamless care and education pathway – 0 to 18 focus; Research based; Linked communication between agencies (with parent or child as the vector); Respected and supported transitions.
  • Supported parenting pathway – Pre-birth to 18; Research based; Linked communication between agencies (with parent or child as the vector); Respected and supported transitions.

What does a career structure actually look like?

A broad career structure

Next week:

The one element that must be considered before all others.

References:

  1. National Quality Framework: Education and Care Services National Law Act 2012
  2. Career structure | Queensland Health
  3. Career Structure — Teaching Service: Overview | education.vic.gov.au
  4. CHAPTER 5 – Parliament of Australia (aph.gov.au)

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