As the federal and provincial governments work toward implementing day care at $10 per day, the local social services administration board is trying to solve the local shortage qualified early-childhood educators in place to address the demand.
The wait list for a daycare space in Sault Ste. Marie currently stands at more than 1,550 people, said Carla Fairbrother, director of Early Years Services in a report to the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB)
”Across the District of Sault Ste. Marie, there is a significant struggle to re-open (post-Covid) all existing licensed child care spaces, given the lack of qualified staff to work,” said Fairbrother in the report.
Recruitment and retention of qualified early childhood educators (ECEs) is one of the problems that needs to be solved to address the backlog and prepare for $10 daycare, she said.
The $10 a day daycare program is expected to be fully implemented in Ontario by 2025.
As a result, a recruitment and retention strategy has been developed to help people interested in working in the field or remaining in the field to fund the education they need, with a number of options available to offer individuals an opportunity to receive financial support while they are studying to become an ECE.
This program is to provide incentive to those who are working and who are committed to successfully completing their respective program option, as well as to support them in meeting the financial burden that can accompany this commitment,” said Fairbrother in the report. ”This program may also entice those who are working without a diploma to consider enrolling in a program that meets their current needs.”
To receive an online college diploma in the Ontario’s Early Childhood Educators Upgrade Program, learners must participate in a six-week unpaid block placement. Now up to $4,536 will be made available to complete that block at a daycare in Sault Ste. Marie.
Additionally, up to $3,000 per participant is available to those enrolled in the Ministry Apprenticeship program and up to $1,000 will be available as a one-time bursary payment for those who have completed the required pre-apprenticeship program and who have obtained employment in the local Early Years system as a result.
The funding is available to all District of Sault Ste. Marie licensed child care agencies and EarlyON centres who have staff who do not hold an ECE Diploma and are participating in an approved Early Childhood Education program through a recognized college.
Funding to support this initiative comes entirely from provincial allocations available though the Ministry of Education.
Initial registrations must be submitted by March 31 and reimbursements will only occur for those who have registered prior to this date and on a first come first served basis for funding availability.