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Wednesday, 11 July 2018 12:15

Recruitment is the Childcare Sector in Crisis?

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It has been widely documented over the last few years that recruitment and retention within childcare is reaching crisis point; the catalyst appears to be the change in GCSE requirements which has not rebalanced since reverting back to functional skills. The general consensus across the sector is that staffing issues are impinging on settings being able to meet the increasing demand for childcare places compounded by the 30hrs funded childcare.

The NDNA have recently published their childcare workforce survey 2018. This produced some statistics that were shocking even for those of us whom work within the sector. Key findings included:

• The level of level 3 qualified staff in settings has dropped to 66%, a decrease from 75% in 2016/17 and 83% in 2015/16

• 34% of practitioners surveyed told us they were considering leaving the sector

• 66% of employers struggle to employ level 3 staff

• Of the practitioners surveyed 34% stated they were considering leaving the sector.

Main reasons given for leaving the sector:

  • Salaries
  • Not suited to the childcare sector (51% of unqualified and apprentice level personnel entering the sector had not been retained)
  • Loss of passion for the sector due to government policy changes
  • Stress
  • Too much paperwork
  • Demands and responsibilities of the job
  • Lack of career progression

What can be done to turn the tide?

        1. Become an Employer of choice:

         Salary is a major issue for many in the sector so wherever possible it is best practice to be competitive in your area, however given financial constraints this may not be an option, so                     additional benefits can both attract and retain staff:

  • Benefits scheme – healthcare, high street discounts etc
  • Recommend a fried scheme
  • Free lunch
  • Free uniforms
  • Additional days off – birthdays, long service
  • Discounted childcare
  • Staff surveys
  • Mentoring schemes
  • Awards
  • Reward days and staff development days

To give credence to the above the award-winning nursery chain Elmscot Group completed a staff survey which highlighted what they wanted from an employer:

  • Working for a provider with a good reputation
  • A good financial and benefits package
  • Being treated well by their manager and having interest shown in their welfare
  • Getting on with colleagues
  • Training and professional development
  • Being able to take the initiative at work
  • Job satisfaction
  • Clear priorities and objectives
  • Being with a company that is fun to work for

             2. Continuous professional development

Many people are leaving the profession as they feel they cannot progress. Career options for Nursery Practitioners are often not discussed as settings are afraid of losing staff if alternative paths are discussed. It is important to look at the bigger picture of keeping people within early years as a whole. Discussing options such as community nursery nursing, family intervention work, and teaching may keep people engaged for longer whilst they look at study options.

Running regular internal training sessions, mentoring schemes and bringing in external trainers delivering inspirational courses can have a huge impact on staff morale and spark those ‘lightbulb moments’.

It is worth noting that ‘Apprenticeship funding’ can be used for both new employees hoping to secure relevant experience and childcare qualifications, but also to upskill existing staff. By utilising the apprenticeship funding in this way an employer is demonstrating their commitment to the continuous professional development of their existing staff team (relevant training that could be accessed could be team leading, management, higher level Early Years qualifications, and even Early years Teaching qualifications) . This will be extremely beneficial to your employee’s long-term career prospects, but the benefits to your nursery will outweigh any cost implications, in terms of having a knowledgeable and highly trained team and can support your long-term succession planning. More importantly a highly trained team will, in return, create best outcomes for children in all areas.

3. Employing apprentices

The NDNA survey highlighted that 51% of unqualified staff and apprentices did not stay the term. Hiring an apprentice should also be part of your long-term succession planning, many apprentices leave as the pressure of the sector is too much. The initial recruitment process should be as thorough as when recruiting qualified staff (though expectations will be lower) and the demands of the job should be highlighted before any hire. Ongoing support for an apprentice is essential to ensure they complete the qualification and then stay in the sector. Working a 40hr week on a shift basis is difficult for anyone new to work, with additional work on top is almost ‘setting people up to fail’. Providing apprentices with 20% off the job training is mandatory but also enables the learner to have quality time completing assignments, shadowing, mentoring and reflecting.


4.Flexible working

A huge barrier to recruitment is the lack of flexibility from the sector as a whole to accommodate shorter working hours or job shares. The requirement to work 40 hrs on a set shift pattern is excluding many people from the sector, especially those with families and/or returning to work from maternity leave. Implementing hours such as such as set patterns of 9am to 6pm, 8am to 5pm, or 2/3 long days can Initially this can be a logistical nightmare, but once in place remunerations of being able to hire very experienced and qualified staff whom are able to enjoy a work life balance will redress this preliminary challenge.

Many nurseries are now implementing this with success rates including the aforementioned Elmscot group and Little Garden Day Nurseries.

5. Lobby government, join campaigns, attend school careers fairs

With a collective voice things can change the #saveourearlyyears campaign was proof that support in numbers really can support a change in government policy.

Government policy changes have contributed to the crisis the sector is now facing so lobby your local MP to highlight the issues facing the sector which are potentially crippling the growth of many nurseries and impacting the availability of childcare provision (this in turn affects the economy and the educational development of children). Support the #MITEY (men in Early Years) campaign.

Bamboo Childcare and Bamboo Training & Apprenticeships regularly attend schools speaking with young people from year 11 onwards about career paths to raise the profile of the sector. We need to change the perception of the sector and look at the long-term plan of raising the profile of the sector; collaborative working with government;, education; media; governing bodies; partner organisations as well as making quicker changes to the benefits of working in nurseries.

The above is not a guarantee of an instant fix for the issues many settings are facing but can be a step in the right direction. For many people working in childcare is still a fantastically rewarding vocation for many reasons, and the majority are very happy in their roles, it is up to those of us still passionate about the sector to spread the message as far as possible.

Bamboo Childcare is a specialist permanent recruitment company supporting nurseries to find quality staff in an increasingly demanding sector. Quality, knowledge and reputation have always been at the forefront of our company and we run networking events for the sector.

Our new division Bamboo Training & Apprenticeships is hoping to address the shortfall in the sector through quality apprenticeship delivery whilst also delivering short courses such as safeguarding, First Aid, the wonder of babies etc.