If they build it, will they come? Addressing the ECE Shortage in terms of $10/day child care.
There is no question that there is a shortage of available child care spaces in British Columbia, specifically the Lower Mainland. The federal and provincial governments have made it their mission to increase affordable, accessible and quality childcare spaces in their $10/day campaign.
The biggest issue we see with this is the shortage of qualified Early Childhood Educators. British Columbia has surpassed 30,500 new child care spaces funded since the launch of ChildCareBC in 2018 as stated in a news release in May of this year by Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care. With expanding the sector with an additional 30,000+ spaces – where are the trained ECE’s coming from? We are a respected employer in the industry and offer well above minimum wage to start, give regular wage increases and provide benefits such as extended medical/dental, pension plan, paid time off in their first year of employment, deeply discounted childcare, earned personal days and free professional development. We also reduced ratio’s in our 3-5 all day childcare rooms to 1:6 from the licensing standard of 1:8 as we were finding staff burnout in this program especially high. All of these “benefits”, help us to provide quality care for families and also to provide our employees with fair compensation. However, even with all of these things we offer, with the current ECE shortage, we still struggle at times with staffing and keeping up with the never ending cycle of the high staff turnover in this industry. Chek news posted this article in May of this year in regards to Early Learning Spaces sitting empty due to the staffing shortage.
Early Learning is not an easy job, a labour of love most of us call it and if it is not your passion to care, nurture and educate children under the age of 5 – then what will entice more people to not only enter the field but to stay? It is certainly not the wages. Most starting wages in the ECE field are $18/hr for certified ECE’s. The BC Government has provided wage assistance to certified ECE’’s, with the $4 an hour wage enhancement, for approved licensed centers, and this helps but it is far from enough. Even with the wage enhancement, it is not a livable wage. We typically see ECE’s burning out after about 5 years of being in this industry – they are long, hard days with big responsibilities and low wages. The pandemic increased that burn out rate threefold as stated by statistics Canada: ‘Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, employment among child care workers has fluctuated more, compared with employment in Canada as a whole. In February 2021, a year after the pandemic hit Canada, employment among child care workers was 21% below that in February 2020. In comparison, total employment in Canada decreased by 3% over the same period.’ With the lack of respect and recognition that comes with the role, it is really no wonder we have so many leave to find alternate, higher paying jobs with less responsibility.
So, we have to wonder…..when the government is capping fees for operators, reducing child care fees for families, all the while significantly increasing spaces, who will be there to work and how much will they be paid? This is a problem that the whole country is facing, not just here. The CBC released a segment based in Toronto that shares similar concerns.
The BC Government has tried to address the lack of educators by also subsidizing schooling for some entering the field, but this does not fix the shortage fast enough, and it has also exasperated the issue of quality schooling, or lack thereof. There is an increased understanding in the sector that the quality of schooling that many ECE graduates are receiving is less than adequate.
We agree with affordable and accessible care, but we most certainly agree to QUALITY care! How can we and other providers, whether private or not for profit, offer quality care without quality educators? How can they be fairly compensated, and earn livable wages and receive benefits, when operators have to contend with unreasonable fee caps that do not fairly consider all the operating costs of Early Learning providers that offer quality care and are good employers?