The Inspiring a Future in Childcare campaign is led by childcare specialist Tinies, and supported by sector organisations the National Day Nurseries Association, the Pre-school Learning Alliance, and PACEY. It is also backed by the Department for Education, the Careers Development Institute and the Education and Employers Charity.
One of its goals is to raise awareness of the benefits of the childcare profession, particularly among 14- to- 18-year-olds considering future career options.
With the demand for childcare staff at an all-time high, there are currently not enough young people choosing to enter the childcare sector, campaigners say.
Amanda Coxen, director of Tinies, said, ‘The rising number of parents returning to work after having a baby has led to a massive deficit in the amount of skilled childcare professionals, and the industry just can’t keep up. Parents are crying out for help, particularly as the summer months arrive when children enjoy the lengthy school holidays - and parents are having to cope with the struggle of balancing work and family with nowhere to turn.
‘The childcare industry is in need. With the demand for nannies, childminders and nursery staff at an all-time high, there just aren’t enough young people entering the profession to cope with demand. That’s why we’ve teamed up with a number of schools, colleges, career advisors, nurseries and the Government to look at ways to encourage more people, particularly the young, to be aware of the opportunities that exist within the sector.’
The campaign is launched against a backdrop of a recruitment crisis in childcare in recent years, which followed the Government’s decision to bring in a requirement for Level 3 Early Years Educator staff to hold GSCEs in maths and English at grade C or above.
Ms Coxen said, ‘This led to a large number of individuals with the perfect skills for childcare – reliability, responsibility, and kindness – who may not have made the academic grade – feeling that they simply weren’t good enough to work in childcare.’
But in response to overwhelming pressure from the sector, this rule was overturned last month by the early years minister Caroline Dinenage who reinstated functional skills as alternatives to GCSEs in English and maths for Level 3 qualifications. The minister also published an Early Years Workforce Strategy.
Ms Dinenage said, ‘This Government’s ambition is to boost the status of our dedicated early years professionals and encourage the brightest talent into this already thriving industry – that’s why we are investing a record £6 billion per year in the sector by 2020 to help deliver affordable, high-quality childcare.
‘Initiatives like this campaign will build on the measures we have already set out in our Workforce Strategy, and make practical differences to employers who want to recruit the best staff to make our 30 hours childcare offer a success.’
Campaigners want to show how prospective entrants into the sector how a career in childcare allows them to make a difference in a child’s life, and may even provide them with opportunities to travel.
Tinies is calling on its network of nannies and professional childcare staff, as well as supporters of their campaign, to take part in careers events and occupational health talks up and down the country – particularly aimed at children in years 9 and 10 (and the Scottish equivalent).
The campaign is supported by personal testimonials of professional childcarers, including Lynn Lewis, who started her career in childcare working in a nursery in Northamptonshire, and now runs the Northants Tinies franchise.
Ms Lewis said, ‘I often get asked what inspired me to choose a career in childcare and I can pinpoint it exactly. It was during a three-week work experience placement in a primary school when I was about 14.
'I was tasked with helping a very upset five-year-old little girl who was struggling to count to 10. Her classmates and twin sister had all achieved this, so the teacher asked if I could spend some time with her. With some reassurance, and a bit of extra help and encouragement, she grasped it and her tears turned to delight. It was such a great feeling to realise that I had helped towards her achievement. 26 years on, the feeling of helping a child accomplish something is still just as brilliant!’
She added that one of the benefits of a career in childcare was the opportunity to work in a variety of roles, from a nanny, to working in a nursery or crèche, school or children’s ward.
‘You can even work abroad. There are also lots of additional training opportunities available and new avenues you can take once qualified, such as specialising in working with children with additional support needs or progressing into management,’ Ms Lewis said.