This campaign is focusing on a number of changes to improve early childhood education and care in Alberta with a focus on the workforce.
The first change we are fighting for is to expand the pilot program, Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) Centres, to a full province wide program. This pilot program offers $25 a day childcare for children and parents with diverse needs. The pilot program is currently available at 22 locations across Alberta. Although the pilot program is a great start in the right direction, the need for childcare vastly outstrips the supply. We need $25/day childcare available for all children and families in Alberta.
Another series of changes focuses on the regulation of ECEC workers’ education and professional development.
Currently under the Child Care Licensing Regulation, a program supervisor at a licensed childcare site must have a Child Development Supervisor certificate. Between 8:30am and 4:30pm one in every three primary staff working directly with children must have at least a Child Development Worker certificate. All other staff working directly with children must have a Child Development Assistant Certificate. Staff must obtain these certificates within six months of employment.
A Child Development Assistant Certificate requires people to:
- complete the Child Care Orientation Course (Alberta Government sponsored course) or;
- complete several Alberta high school credits (CCS 3110, 3120, 3130, 3140, and 3150) or;
- complete a 45-hour post-secondary level course related to child development or;
- complete the Step Ahead Family Day Home Training or Family Child Care Training Program which are offered through approved and registered day home agencies.
A Child Development Workers Certificate requires people to:
- complete one year Early Learning and Child Care certificate program through a public post-secondary institution or equivalent or;
- Complete the Life Experience Equivalency Process (LEEP).
A Child Development Supervisor Certificate requires people to complete a two year Early Learning and Child Care diploma through a public post-secondary institution or equivalent.
Children and the childcare sector would benefit from increased educational requirements and regulation for early childhood education and care workers including the following:
- require Directors of early childhood education and care centres to have a degree or post-diploma credential;
- integrate diploma and degree programs with the workplace so education and work build on one another and can happen concurrently;
- increase the current 45 hour training for Child Care Assistants to at least 90 hours which can be integrated into a diploma program at a later date.
We recommend designing educational requirements and opportunities around continuous employment. Such a program would allow participants to continue working while studying, helping ensure they do not have lost wages, providing breaks between periods of study, and allowing each level of study to build on the next one culminating in a degree at the end.
A potential program model is Manitoba’s Early Childhood Education Workplace Training Program that was introduced in 2002. This program is an accelerated post-secondary degree diploma that has students in classes two days a week while continuing in their employment for the rest of the week. Lost wages are covered by government funding while students are responsible for their tuition and program fees. To be eligible for this program workers have to have completed secondary school and have worked in a licensed childcare centre for two years prior. Later recommendations to the Manitoba government include reducing the two year employment requirement to one year for those that already have a post-secondary credential.
The ECEC sector in Alberta has long suffered issues related to staff retention and recruitment.
In 2013, Alberta reported one of the highest averages of permanent qualified staff leaving centres in the past year at 3.8 per cent, this is compared to the Canadian average of 2.4 per cent. The same survey also found that just under 25 per cent of program staff at these centres self-reported actively looking for new jobs, while 15 per cent of directors reported the same. According to the Alberta Government 56 per cent of employers in this sector had recruited in the last two years and 48 per cent of recruiting employers said it was difficult. One way to deal with this issue is to develop the previously mentioned education program and by creating a pension fund for workers in this sector to help provide a secure retirement, as they have in Quebec and Manitoba.
Any pension fund for ECEC workers needs to be accessible to full-time, part-time, casual and seasonal staff. The Alberta government could help non-profits establish these pension programs by allowing employers to claim a set per cent of the employer contributions to these plans. Any such plans should have the dual purpose of ensuring secure retirement for these workers and also promoting regulated non-profit childcare centers.
Another pivotal way to deal with issues of recruitment and retention is to increase compensation levels to reflect the roles, responsibilities, education and experience of these workers. Currently, Alberta’s ECEC workers are the lowest paid in the country when compared to median provincial income. In 2015 workers in this sector can have starting wages ranging from $10.20 - $12.00 an hour with a median overall wage of $15.20 an hour. A compensation increase could be led by a salary guideline done by the government as it is in Manitoba, Quebec, and PEI and then incorporated into the funding model for regulated childcare centres.
 You Bet We Still Care: A Survey of Centre-Based Early Childhood Education and Care in Canada. (2013). Child Care Human Resources Sector Council. Ottawa, Ontario.