Male role models laying foundation for Alice youngsters 

l-r: Lil' Antz Director Alison Haggett and CDU student Brigham Archibald

Bright-eyed kids crowd around a remarkable sight: A male child care worker.

They’re listening to 18-year-old Brigham Archibald, one of Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) star child care recruits and valued staff member of a local child care centre, Lil’Antz.

He is one of four male CDU students studying either a Certificate IV in Out of School Hours Care or the Diploma of Children’s Services.

Nearly half the CDU students employed at the centre are male, representing a remarkable ratio for an industry crying out for gender balance.

Brigham’s pathway to a career in child care started early when he was raised in a household surrounded with many young children who were cared for by his mother.

The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College student took the opportunity to study child care through the VET In Schools (VETiS) program in addition to his school studies and was promptly employed after approaching Lil’ Antz director Alison Haggett.

But Brigham said his career choice was not universally supported.

“My parents were behind me, but careers counsellors were trying to talk me out of something I really enjoyed. I went ahead anyway,” he said.

He considered teaching, but was swayed towards childcare’s flexible and creative environment.

“Child care is far less structured compared to a primary school which is why I didn’t go down the pathway of teaching,” he said.

Ms Haggett said she quickly realised Brigham’s talents.

“He is an intelligent fellow who could have gone into literally any field, yet he has chosen to work with the youngsters and what makes him stand out is his true passion and talent to deal with children,” she said.

She said males were valued in child care as they were across primary and secondary education.

“It gives the kids a good balance in life and proves women aren’t just the role models of kids.”

And with more than 230 little clients over two properties, Brigham said his day was always diverse, exciting and busy.

“I could have worked flipping hamburgers and got twice the pay, but I really enjoy it here,” he said.

Brigham completes his apprenticeship and will graduate with a Diploma in Children’s Services in June.

Since opening her business in 2004, Ms Haggett has actively sourced apprentices and staff and encouraged them to gain qualifications in Children’s Services.

She said Lil Antz’ and CDU continued to forge closer links.

“I’ve seen the change in educational delivery which is moving to a far more flexible model, so my staff and I have the choice of when and where we want to study,” she said.

With more than 300 children on her books and another 100 on the waiting list, Ms Haggett said she was looking to further expand her business which was founded on an assignment she completed as a child care student in early 2002.

“I had to write a report on how I would open a new child care centre and, from that document, I was spurred on to build the business which is still continuing today,” she said.

Child Care team leader and lecturer Heather Wilson said the presence of male staff/students was crucial to many children in their first step into care and education.

“These men are excellent role models and our training reinforces the importance of their approach in shaping a child’s future social and emotional development,” she said.

“Brigham is a fantastic role model and I’m proud to see him grow in confidence and competence which is reflected in the quality of his work.”

He is now considering tertiary studies in child psychology, a decision cheekily challenged by his boss.

“He’s staying right here to run one of my centres,” Ms Haggett joked.