With increasing recognition of the complexity of caring for and educating young children, research has shown the diverse Northern Territory workforce has the qualifications, skills and certainly the passion to do the job.
The Northern Institute Research Fellow Alicia Boyle led the study, which investigated the employment, training and mobility trends of immigrant-born early childhood education and care workers (ECEC) in childcare centres in the Northern Territory.
Ms Boyle said she found the NT had the highest percentage of bicultural ECEC workers compared with the rest of Australia, and possessed higher level qualifications when compared with overseas-born ECEC employees in other states and territories.
“Bicultural employees are a very important part of the ECEC sector, making up almost 50 per cent of the Northern Territory’s workforce, while the national average is around 30 per cent,” Ms Boyle said.
“In our interviews we found that 44 per cent of the NT’s bicultural ECEC workers had completed a diploma-level qualification, 26 per cent held Bachelor degrees and 22 per cent held Certificate III qualifications in Children’s Services.
“NT bicultural ECEC workers also demonstrated aspirations to achieve increasingly higher levels of tertiary education and training, with 70 per cent interested in upgrading their industry-specific qualifications.
“The group are also highly experienced, with 59 per cent having more than four years’ experience and 44 per cent having more than seven years’ experience.
“It’s promising to see that we can keep these skills and experience in the Territory, with 85 per cent of bicultural ECEC workers indicating they intended to live in the NT for at least the next five to 10 years.”
Two-thirds of the overseas-born ECEC workers were from Asia, and most had arrived in the NT on family and skilled visas.
“The fact that the NT has a highly skilled child care workforce, and a workforce that is keen to expand its formal qualifications, is very promising for the state of the local system in light of tighter standards coming into act from the beginning of next year.
“However, significant staff shortages in the child care system are still a national issue, and a massive up-skilling and injection of people into the industry is required.”
From 2014, a Certificate III in Children’s Services will be the minimum standard for working in the child care industry in Australia, with some ECEC workers required to hold Early Childhood Teaching degrees to provide child care, depending on child-to-carer ratios and child ages.
The Northern Institute Research Fellow Kate Golebiowska and CDU Vocational Education and Training Children’s Services and Education Support Team Leader Ms Denise Horvath also contributed to the research.
Ms Boyle will present the research findings at the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association conference in Fremantle from 3 – 5 April 2013.