Richardson Child Care and Education Centre is miles away from the world of lanyards, boardrooms and cubicles that dominate Canberra's workplaces.
Instead, educators Kelly Adams and Bec Leader get to immerse children in imaginary worlds, playing in the sand, building things, making music and running after chickens.
It may look like, well, child's play but every routine and activity at the centre is carefully planned to build the children's fine and gross motor skills, their language and emotional development.
"There's so much that goes into what we do," Miss Adams said.
"We look at each individual child's interests and what they're able to do and how we can help them the best way that we can. And we do it for each individual child so it's not all just one fits all."
Miss Leader began training for a certificate in early childhood education while she was still at school and has never looked back. She loves to see children call her name when they arrive.
"You get to know the children as well individually, what they like and what they don't like and they get to know you," she said.
It's unlikely that the pair will be out of work as the sector is crying out for more qualified educators. The Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA), a group of 16 large providers, has launched a campaign in a bid to attract new people to the profession.
ELACCA members had a total of 3036 job vacancies across Australia in January 2021, with 117 of these based in the ACT. Meanwhile, in 2019 the Australian government forecast the sector would create 36,900 extra jobs for educators by 2024.
Communities@Work chief executive Lee Maiden said COVID-19 had put the organisation's recruiting strategy behind because the trainee program was put on hold last year.
"I've been in the sector for many years, for over 30 years, and workforce has constantly been an issue. However, I believe we're sort of really reaching a point now where it is becoming a crisis for us to have the right people," she said.
"You have to have a passion for working with children and we can help you with the qualification."
ELACCA chief executive Elizabeth Death said the importance of the sector was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic as the government pulled out all the stops to make sure centres stayed open.
"We've had a workforce shortage that has been fairly chronic for many years in the early childhood sector, and COVID-19 and many who have been displaced through the pandemic have provided us with an opportunity to reach out and offer early learning as a wonderful career choice."
She said the sector was booming with the number of children attending early learning services growing by 9 per cent in the past five years. Currently close to 45 per cent of all Australian children are attending a service.
Ms Death said it was a demanding but rewarding career.
"I don't believe there are very many professions that you can say you really impact the life course trajectory of the people you're working with as you can in early childhood," she said.
- For more information see bigrolesinlittlelives.com
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