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Getting more people to take the plunge

From 2020, children aged 3-5 (and some 2-year-olds) will be entitled to 1,140 hours of free Early Learning and Childcare (ELC). The Scottish Government also recently pledged to ensure an additional graduate is working in ELC settings in each area of multiple deprivation by 2018.

To me this is positive news for parents and also for students, but more hours means more high-quality qualified workers are needed to provide them. We’re working with the Scottish Government and partner agencies on the workforce planning – planning so that the right number of people with the right skills are employed in the right place at the right time – and with colleges and universities to train additional childcare professionals to meet these challenging targets. 

Getting more people to take the plunge

It’s important that these opportunities are open to as wide a range of people as possible, not only to meet the demand of the targets, but to meet the demand from ELC employers and parents who will use the services. Colleges and universities are working creatively and collaboratively to attract people from a range of under-represented groups to childcare courses. Black, minority and ethnic students and students with disabilities are under-represented. Demand from the ELC sector for more qualified male childcare professionals is growing, yet approximately 96% of ELC students in Scottish colleges are female.

But we’ve seen some fantastic work on this already – New College Lanarkshire is among a growing group of colleges who have higher than average proportions of male students studying in this field. 

One of them is Danny McBride, who found a new vocation when he volunteered at his daughter’s nursery on a day off from his job as a retail store manager so he could spend more time with her. While there a staff member spotted his potential and suggested that he consider a change of career. Three years on, Danny is now a student of HNC Early Education and Childcare at New College Lanarkshire – and he’s eager to get other dads to follow suit.

He says “I felt so comfortable doing it. I took the plunge and I love it.”

“You do have doubts at first, though. I remember on my first day walking in and there being 40 women and me. One placement I did didn’t have a men’s toilet – I had to use the ladies’ toilet.”

“It’s not about getting guys into childcare, necessarily. It’s about getting the right guys into childcare.”

We’re working to support colleges to increase the diversity in ELC courses during the coming year’s childcare expansion. While we realise that requires a significant change in thinking, if we are going to meet the future workforce demands from a growing social care sector across all disciplines, this is a challenge we must be proactive in addressing.

Alison Malcolm, Policy Analysis Officer, Access & Skills - 15 Feb 2017