The ACT government is offering new cash for childcare workers to upgrade their skills and become preschool teachers, assistance the union says is welcome news for professionals it believes are under paid.
The government announced 25 scholarships worth $1500 a year over four years so childcare workers or those considering becoming one can gain a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education.
The move will help the government comply with the new National Quality Framework in early education which requires larger childcare centres to employ Bachelor-qualified teachers.
Sarah Wilcox, deputy chairwoman of the Children's Educators ACT forum, said ACT Education Minister Joy Burch had been "very supportive" of early educators and the move would encourage more childcare workers to see early education as the great career path that it was.
Ms Wilcox said "a lot of people don’t realise there is an opportunity to move on to a career".
She added that pay was a big issue for a profession that could be "physically and emotionally" exhausting.
Lyndal Ryan, ACT branch secretary of United Voice, welcomed the scholarships saying “the cost of obtaining a degree is prohibitive for many already in the sector who want to upgrade their skills".
Ms Ryan said it was a "timely reminder of the low pay which is forcing talented educators out of the sector and which discourages the best and brightest from joining the workforce".
Ms Wilcox, who started as a childcare worker and moved on to become a preschool teacher, now manages a number of childcare centres. "I wish we had something like this back then when I did it," Ms Wilcox said.
The program is in concert with an existing early childhood scholarship program, which helps people achieve a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care.
The funding will be for fees and textbooks and will allow the students to take leave to attend classes or placements.
A Productivity Commission report, released in July recommended that some funding from the federal government's Paid Parental Leave scheme should be diverted to childcare.