Shortage of childcare workers a 'crisis'

Parent upset about closure of Port Moody half day pre-school, but problem could be bigger with shortage of early childhood educators

A Coquitlam family is scrambling to find pre-school after a half-day program was cancelled at a Port Moody child care operation.

And a shortage of early childhood educators could be one of the reasons why.

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Cynthia Mollison whose son attended the program at Kids and Company was told Wednesday, Oct. 31 the program was closing the following day.

“I’ve been doing some calls and research it’s been hard to find a spot this time of year,” said Mollison, who was also disappointed her son wasn’t able to go back to the program the next day to say his goodbyes.

A spokesperson for the company said there was a challenge to fill two spots when workers quit and a decision was made to close programs with the smallest number of registrants — a before and after school program with six children and the half-day preschool program with five.

“We are doing everything we can to fill those spaces as quickly as we can,” said Renee Morales, director of enrolment, who said the shutdowns would only be temporary until Kids and Company finds qualified workers and does the required background checks.

Families were also given the opportunity to enroll in a similar program in Surrey.

“For some families the travel doesn’t work and I understand that,” Morales said.

Part of the challenge is finding qualified early childhood educators, Morales acknowledged, but she said the company’s human resources department does a good job of recruiting and retaining workers.
“We are doing every thing we can to restaff and have those programs up and running soon.”

The concern comes as an agency supporting children with special needs reported difficulty in finding trained workers to fill jobs.

Kinsight received nearly $500,000 to provide supported childcare but the Tri-City News was told that a shortage of workers is making filling those spots a challenge.

It’s a problem familiar to Emily Gawlik, executive director of the Early Childhood Educators of BC, who said the shortage of trained childcare workers is past the crisis point. “We’re in chaos mode right now,” said Gawlik, who confirmed that operators are struggling to keep staff, programs are running below capacity and some daycares can’t even open because they can’t find qualified staff.

BURSARIES AVAILABLE

But she hopes a $1.1 billion government investment into childcare, including $1 an hour wage boost for workers in January and another the following spring, as well as bursaries to pay for education will encourage more people to become ECE workers.

“We know we need to open up child care programs but the need is so big it will take awhile,” Gawlik said.

People interested in becoming ECE workers can get a bursary of up to $4,000 per semester if they go to a recognized institution and those already working can get up to $5,000 to attend school in the evenings for things such as transportation, tuition and other costs.

Gawlik said part of the problem is that working with young children is not seen as a valued service, a stigma against so-called women’s work, which is outdated given that most families need two pay cheques and want quality childcare and the early years are critical in brain development.

“It all started after WWII,” commented Gawlik, “It’s been a long standing issue, it’s really come to a head, it’s at a tipping point.”

More information about the bursary program is available at at www.ecebc.ca
 

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