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We work on behalf of long day care owners and operators to ensure families and their children have an opportunity to access affordable, high quality early learning services throughout Australia.


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Perhaps the biggest challenge for any employer is putting together a great team.
 
First, that means finding and hiring the right people. Then there’s the ongoing challenge of staff retention.
 
In the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector, it is especially important to source and retain educators who are professional, knowledgeable, and passionate about their work.
 
So, how can ECEC service operators find and keep the best staff?

Stand out from the crowd
Australian lending platform Bigstone ranks keeping a ‘top-notch team’ as one of the top five challenges faced by child care centres in Australia today.
 
There is strong competition among ECEC services to recruit quality staff who can offer the combination of relevant qualifications, relevant skillsets, a practical understanding of the role and a positive, team-building attitude.  
 
This competition was enhanced by the the introduction of the National Quality Framework (NQF) in 2012, which among other things, brought about new  requirements in terms of childcare qualifications, such as teaching degrees, a Diploma or Certificate III in child care.
 
As an employer, the key to attracting and retaining the best staff is to stand out from the crowd. This could mean offering a more competitive salary, greater job flexibility, or other workplace benefits.
 
Provide ongoing professional development
In addition to the the minimum early childhood educator qualifications, early childhood educators can benefit from additional studies on topics such as first aid, health, nutrition, food allergies, child psychology, counselling and how to deal with conflict, whether engaging with the children or their parents. 
 
Meanwhile, the Australian ECEC sector is about to undergo significant changes with the commencement of the new Child Care Subsidy in July 2018. This new operating environment will create the need for further training and professional development.
 
Investing in professional development demonstrates that early childhood educators are valued, and their skills and contributions are acknowledged and appreciated, helping to create a strong and supportive team.
 
Look for people where they are
If your child care centre has always advertised available positions in the same places, it might be time to try something new.
 
Advertising job vacancies on social media allows employers to target people with specific demographics, including fields of study and employment, interests, online behaviours, geographic location, age and more.
 
This means employers can put new career opportunities in front of the very people who are looking for them, increasing the rate of suitable applicants that respond to job advertisements.
 
Ask the right questions
When you’ve finished reading through applications and résumés, it’s time to arrange the interviews with the shortlisted applicants.
 
By this stage you should have already confirmed they are suitably qualified, so now is the time to learn more about them and determine if they will make a good fit for your team.
This requires asking the right questions, such as:
  • Are they looking for a short-term job, or is Early Childhood Education and Care their chosen career path? 
  • How would they define success in the role of an early childhood educator?
  • How have they handled confrontation with unhappy parents and families in the past?
Workable suggests this list of interview questions to ask early childhood educators.

Create a vibrant, supportive workplace
Creating a positive workplace climate is vital, with the obvious benefit being that staff feel valued, respected and part of a healthy team. A happy, healthy work culture also boosts commitment, engagement and performance, and when staff enjoy their job, they are less likely to move on.
 
The general turnover in the ECEC sector is higher than the national average, with one study revealing one in five early childhood educators plan to leave the profession within the next 12 months
 
The greatest reason given for wanting to quit child care was feeling undervalued by a lack of professional recognition in the community. Many respondents of the survey said they felt many people viewed them as babysitters, rather than highly trained and experienced early childhood educators.
 
Employers can address these genuine concerns from their educators, by implementing initiatives that build on a sense of teamwork, professionalism and culture of feeling valued among their staff.
 
These may include:
  • Training/professional development programs
  • Working with staff to set clear career paths
  • Putting succession planning in place
  • Team building exercises
  • Small acts of rewards and recognition programs, celebration of staff birthdays and importance life/family events
  • Highlighting the professionalism of your staff and how much they are valued when engaging with families on a personal level, as well as through more formal channels
  • Publicising how valued and special your staff are in the centre itself, via their biographies on display in the foyer area, via expressions of warmth from the children through their art, etc

Introducing these measures can help you create a vibrant and supportive workplace at your ECEC service, which is crucial for retaining the best staff.

Providing user-friendly work support systems
The legislative and paperwork requirements under the NQF can at times be overwhelming, particularly in the context of the daily practical elements of the early childhood educator's role. According to the study previously mentioned, the sheer volume of paperwork is becoming unmanageable for many early childhood educators, who struggle to complete it in the time provided. 
 
This highlights the importance of automating child care management and administration with CCMS software, to provide an efficient, reliable process for staff which allows them to focus on the most meaningful aspects of their work - their daily interactions with children and families.
 
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About the Author
Mark Woodland is the founder & CEO of Xplor, a multi-platform childcare software system for the education sector. He founded Xplor in 2015 after working in his mother's Melbourne childcare centre and serving in the Australian Army. Mark is included in KPMG’s top 20 Australian Twitter power list. You can follow him here @MarkAWoodland