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County survey shows child care staff recruitment, retention a big issue

A new survey of local centre-based child care programs found improved compensation, benefits, overall working conditions are needed

WELLINGTON ‒ Substantial growth of qualified workers and sufficient compensation remain issues for recruiting and retaining child care staff in Wellington County and Guelph. 

Surveying 58 of 89 centre-based child care programs within Wellington County to "better understand the impacts of staffing challenges locally," a new report shows "a clear majority" of surveyed centres implemented changes to their operations related to staffing issues in 2023, with several calling for improved recruitment and retention strategies, as well as competitive wages and benefits as ways to achieve provincial targets listed under the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) Agreement. 

The report went on to suggest improved compensation, benefits and overall working conditions, as well as improved access equity, would also support the recruitment and retention of affordable licensed child care in Wellington County. 

"Increased access to affordable licensed child care under the CWELCC System is an exceptional and positive system transformation however, substantial growth of a qualified workforce is needed," said Mandy Koroniak, director of children’s early years in the report. "This can be supported through recruitment and retention efforts that include improved compensation, benefits, and overall working conditions, the capacity to train more individuals qualified educators, and broad recognition of registered early childhood educators as valued professionals."

According to the survey, 57 per cent of county programs made at least one operation change to their centres in the last 12 months, with 36 per cent pausing enrolment and four per cent shortening their hours of operation. 

To make up for shortages, 32 per cent of surveyed centres said they currently rely on more non-registered early childhood educators (ECE's) than registered while 20 per cent have director approvals from the Ministry of Education for supervisor positions to be filled by staff not meeting legislative qualification requirements. 

"Many programs reported...they have operated at a reduced capacity, meaning that they were not able to provide care for the maximum number of children that the program can support, according to their license from the Ministry of Education," said Koroniak, in the report. "These operational changes negatively affect the quality and stability of child care programs, as well as access to licensed child care by families, leading to broader impacts on overall workforce participation." 

In 2022-2023, there were 26 ECE apprenticeship students at the Guelph Conestoga College campus through funding received under the Canada Ontario Early Childhood Workforce Agreement. 

The Ministry of Education currently estimates an additional 8,500 registered early childhood educators (RECEs) are required in Ontario to meet the goals for space creation under the CWELCC System.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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