Council backs WomenCAN to help fill early childhood education labour shortages

WomenCAN early years initiative being rolled out in SheppartonThe WomenCAN Early Years program is a collaboration between WomenCAN Australia, Greater Shepparton Foundation, Greater Shepparton City Council, The Bowden Marstan Foundation and GOTAFE. This program has the aim of training women through an earn-and-learn model to help boost the number of workers in the childcare sector.

Early years education is a sector that already struggles to meet its workforce requirements, and demand for workers is only going to increase, which is why Greater Shepparton City Council has backed a pilot program it hopes will help fill the need.

The Greater Shepparton Early Years WomenCAN pilot project is a partnership between WomenCAN Australia, The Bowden Marstan Foundation, Greater Shepparton Foundation and council. Each of the partners is contributing equally for a total of almost $140,000.

The program, which was launched in Shepparton in February and will run for 12 months through to February 2025, was discussed during council’s meeting on Tuesday, February 27.

“Essentially, our childcare and early kindergarten programs are intended to almost double over the next few years because of state programs and initiatives, and with that, we basically need to double our staff,” Deputy Mayor Sam Spinks said.

The program will support between 10 and 20 women from diverse backgrounds to complete their Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care while working in a local early years centre.

“One of the key things that makes this particular pilot project different is not only that free training is being provided — a free certificate III to the participants — but it’s surrounded by a peer support model that allows them to feel connected and supported along that learning journey, and that can be the difference between completion and not,” Cr Spinks said.

Graduates from the program will help build the early years workforce ahead of the implementation of the Victorian Government’s Best Start, Best Life reforms, which will see substantial increases in the hours of kindergarten delivered to three- and four-year-old children in Victoria.

“There’s a lack of diversity in teaching staff in early years that we have observed, and the community has told us,” Cr Seema Abdullah said.

“In places like Shepparton, where many different cultures live together, we need teachers who can speak different languages and who can support children and parents coming from those diverse backgrounds.”

Cr Anthony Brophy also spoke in favour of council’s support of the program.

“This is purposefully designed to offer (training to) immigrant women who could possibly excel in this industry, an industry that is crying out for workers,” he said.

“Not only would we be meeting the demand, but this could possibly be a prelude to other industries having pilot programs as well.”

Cr Ben Ladson acknowledged the staff already working in the early childhood education sector and encouraged others to take up the WomenCAN opportunity.

“I’d like to commend the council’s team for the early childhood education sector and the work that they do for the, I believe, very underappreciated job they do,” Cr Ladson said.

“I can’t speak highly enough of the work council services do providing the education service to all the growing youngsters in the community.

“I encourage anybody who’s eligible to apply for the pilot program for WomenCAN.”

Mayor Shane Sali said council was pleased to support the project.

“By ensuring equal opportunities, we unlock the talents and skills of all women and contribute to a more diverse early years workforce,” he said.

WomenCAN is already working in Shepparton with aged care providers training and employing women in that sector.

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Cr Sam Spinks at the WomenCAN rollout
Support: City of Greater Shepparton Deputy Mayor Sam Spinks addressing the launch of the WomenCAN pilot project. Photo by Murray Silby

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