Encouraging more people from all backgrounds to choose a career in early childhood education

What we heard

Early childhood teachers and educators told us that playing such a critical role in helping young children learn and develop is what they find most rewarding and fulfilling about working in early childhood education.

But there is more work to be done to raise the profile of early childhood education as a respected and professional career that is truly valued by the community, and for more people from all backgrounds to see it as a potential career path for them.

We heard that a crucial time for awareness is at secondary school when students are guided by careers advisors and their families about their career choices. Making early childhood education a well-understood choice means young adults can consider the multiple pathways available to becoming a part of the future kindergarten workforce.

Teachers and educators also told us about the importance of improving workplace diversity. We need to do more to ensure Victorians from all walks of life are aware that early childhood education is a viable career path and that they are welcomed and supported to join and stay in the sector. In particular, we heard the benefits to children and families, and to services themselves, when more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities are employed in early childhood education.

What we are doing

Changing community perceptions and raising the sector’s profile is an important long-term goal, which is why we need to continue to promote the value and opportunity of a career in early childhood education.

Since the release of the 2021 strategy, we have continued our community-wide Best Start, Best Life communications campaign to drive awareness about the reforms and the importance of early childhood education. This campaign activity promotes Victorian early childhood education as a great place to work, highlighting the job opportunities, study options and supports available. It also aims to attract school leavers and career changers to consider becoming an early childhood teacher or educator and targets qualified early childhood professionals working outside the sector to re-enter the profession.

Through our collective efforts we have had success in growing the number of teacher and educator roles delivering funded kindergarten programs by more than 50 per cent since the introduction of Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.

But there is more that we can do to improve understanding of early childhood careers, particularly for secondary students, and to support workforce diversity.

Building on our existing work, we will:

  • Improve workforce diversity by identifying effective strategies to support people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities to take up tertiary education opportunities and join the early childhood workforce. Research to build our understanding of barriers to workforce diversity is also expected to provide insights into how to develop culturally safe practices across services.
  • Lift the number of Aboriginal teachers and educators delivering kindergarten programs and improve the cultural safety of early childhood services including working in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc (VAEAI). This will build on the existing Aboriginal Pathways Scholarship program, which provides financial assistance to help students obtain early childhood education qualifications.
  • Attract more young people to choose early childhood careers by developing targeted support for careers advisors, informed by research and up-to-date labour market information, on pathways and careers in early childhood education. This will support careers advisors and people influencing student choices to help give young people and their families knowledge of the benefits of a career in early childhood education and the VET and traineeship pathways available during senior secondary school.
  • Prioritise work experience opportunities in early childhood as part of the Victorian Government’s commitment to significantly expand work experience for students in years 9 and 10. This will include both local and state-wide approaches to securing meaningful work experience placements within early childhood settings to spark student interest in, and support decision-making about careers in the sector.

Attracting secondary school students to study early childhood

The Department of Education’s Early Childhood Improvement Branch in the Inner East has joined forces with the department’s Jobs, Skills and Pathway team to raise awareness among secondary school students of the study pathways and career opportunities in early childhood education.

A school industry roundtable in 2022 brought together early childhood teachers, providers and other stakeholders to discuss the barriers to students choosing to study early childhood education, including misunderstandings from students, families and career advisors of career options in early childhood. This led to the development of an early childhood ‘taster day’.

Interested secondary school students in Years 10, 11 and 12 from schools within the local government areas of Monash, Manningham, Whitehorse and Boroondara were invited to participate. The students attended four early childhood services, engaging in ‘A Day in the Life’ experience at each service, before touring the local TAFE and hearing a presentation on career pathways.

Participants then heard from students currently studying an early childhood qualification across each of the career pathways and had the opportunity to ask questions about their experience.

The event was a great success. Most students said that their perception of early childhood education had changed since attending the day and many were considering working in the sector in the future.

A Head Start on a career path in early childhood education

Ty McMahon used work experience to trial several different professions before coming back to early childhood education and applying for a traineeship through the Head Start program while completing secondary school at Lowanna College in the Latrobe Valley.

Head Start allows students to complete their senior secondary schooling alongside paid on-the-job training to achieve both a vocational and school-based education.

Trainees receive education from an early learning training specialist to help them gain a Certificate III qualification.

The best part of the experience for Ty was seeing the connection educators can make with young children and noticing how much families appreciated the work of educators. He believes the job is hard at times but also very rewarding and realised the potential of a future career in the sector.

For other students considering this pathway Ty offers this advice:

If you haven’t considered early childhood education before, maybe you should just try a few days’ work experience to see if you like it or not, you might be surprised.

Three young children and an older woman sit at a table doing puzzles.