Not-for-profit early education providers are calling for the ACT government to boost support for educators in the upcoming budget as the sector grapples with a workforce shortage.
The Children First Alliance wants the government to fund professional development, allow early childhood teachers working in early learning centres to be registered, and for the certificate III in early childhood education and care to be on the Skilled Capital list.
Co-chair of the alliance and chief executive of Communities@Work Lee Maiden said it was difficult to attract workers to the sector amid very low unemployment in the ACT while much-needed professional development was expensive.
"It makes it very difficult when you have a workforce shortage already to be able to send off people to do some professional development when you can't backfill, and then if we can we have to pay to backfill," she said.
"We would really like to see some sort of investment by the ACT government to some professional development for our sector."
The alliance has called for grants for study leave to allow educators to learn about supporting vulnerable groups and to develop trauma-informed practices.
Currently degree-qualified early learning teachers who work as a preschool teacher in a school are able to register with the Teaching Quality Institute.
However, qualified teachers who work in an early learning centre that's not part of a primary school are not able to register and generally have lower salaries, longer hours and fewer holidays.
"We would really like to have that acknowledge that our early childhood teachers in our centres have the same qualifications and doing the same work that they do when they're in schools," Ms Maiden said.
Despite having an ongoing workforce shortage, the certificate III in early childhood education and care has been left off the Skilled Capital list of subsidised qualifications released in May. It includes the early education diploma, however Ms Maiden said that course was being taught out in its current form within 12 months so it wasn't ethical to enrol new people.
A spokeswoman for ACT early childhood development minister Yvette Berry said she could not comment on budget submissions at this stage.
Speaking during Early Learning Matters Week, Goodstart Early Learning Garran director Laura Adam said educators were a scarce resource with up to 50 per cent of the regional workforce expected to leave in the next three years.
"We've had educators in the region leave to go and work in cafes or to become bus drivers, to join the Defence Force," Mrs Adam said.
"It's really hard to retain educators when the pay and conditions just aren't there."
Mrs Adam has enjoyed being able to help children develop their language and motor skills as well as social and emotional skills to be ready for school.
"One of the most beautiful things is seeing a child that wants to learn and wants to know more and to be a part of that journey with them, it's just such a joy."
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