Industry leaders have defended the ACT's childcare sector after figures said staff were the nation's least qualified, but acknowledged employee retention remained challenging.
Association of Community-Based Child Care Directors ACT treasurer Lisa Syrette said the introduction of the National Quality Standard in 2012 had created a positive impact and increased the number of childcare workers studying for relevant qualifications.
"The sector's biggest challenge is the retention of qualified staff, as a lot of services find they recruit, they train, and those people move on to other possibilities," she said.
"As long as we continue to call for improved conditions and salaries and better access to training, we will hopefully see an improvement in the number of qualified staff and the qualified ratio."
The Productivity Commission's latest Report on Government Services 2016, released on Thursday,foundjust 50.6 per cent of primary contact staff employed by approved childcare providers in Canberra had the relevant national qualifications at or above Certificate III last year. This was the worst of any jurisdiction and far below the 74.1 per cent national average.
Figures for centres were also weak, as only 46.9 per cent of all ACT childcare centres met the National Quality Standard at June 20, 2015, compared with a national average of 66.5 per cent.
Communities@Work deputy chief executive Lee Maiden said more than 70 per cent of the 300 childcare workers employed by the not-for-profit organisation had the relevant minimum qualifications and, of the rest, only a handful of staff were not studying for them. This may include people who would soon retire, she said.
"Because you're "working toward" [as a centre] it doesn't mean it's a bad thing," she said.
"There may only be a minor few elements that you have got to adjust to get you across the line."
Ms Syrette directed the AIS Caretakers' Cottage childcare centre, one of five in the ACT - among 40 nationally - rated "excellent". She said the latest snapshot from the national regulator showed 48 per cent of ACT childcare centres were meeting or exceeding the quality standard, with 50 per cent "working towards" it (above the 32 per cent national average) but no centres marked as needing significant improvement as at September 30.
"I would say that the ACT may be unique in that we have a large number of services that are going through the assessment processes for the first time," she said.
Ms Maiden said the Productivity Commission finding the ACT had the highest fees for long-day care at $493 per week, compared with a $400 national average, was distorted by the lack of rural and regional areas but was not helped by a rapid increase in Canberra centres.
"If you can't fill them all that pushes the price of childcare up, not down; there certainly needs to be some sort of strategy," she said.