Overview of the Early Childhood Education sector on PEI
by Stacy Dunn
The Early Childhood Development Association of PEI is a not-for-profit organization with early childhood educators as its primary members. Sonya Hooper is the Executive Director.
“We are committed to promoting and supporting high quality early learning and child care programs and services across PEI,” says Sonya. “We have about 460 individual members.”
Across PEI, licensed child care centres offer half-day and full-day programs, as well as after school programs, drop-in play centres, and family resource centres. There are 43 centers designated through the province of Prince Edward Island as Early Years Centres. The hours of operation vary between programs, with slight variations of opening and closing hours, storm days, and professional development closures.
“When including the places offering programs and services to school-aged children up to age 12, the number of licensed centres is about 147.
“Our association promotes the professionalization of the sector, which includes offering professional development and on-going training opportunities, and also works to retain educators in the system by promoting policies and procedures that respect early childhood educators, children, and their families.”
She says the association offers members access to human resource templates which include staff evaluations, job descriptions, suggested staffing policies, and other human resource management tools and training.
In 2010, the provincial government introduced the Preschool Excellence Initiative, which addressed accessible, quality early learning and child care.
“When the government set out the wage grid and new education requirements six years ago, early childhood educators became more confident about their work. Also, educators returned to the sector when this grid was first announced.”
Early Childhood Education – Hiring practices
- L’Association des Centres de la Petite Enfance Francophones, Island wide
- Île Enchantée, Carrefour de l’Isle-Saint-Jean, Charlottetown
- Tiny Tot Early Years Centre, Charlottetown
- Tiny Tot Rainbow Centre, Summerside
Skills and abilities required
“There are now higher expectations for early childhood educators to be the best they can be and to have a specialized bank of knowledge in child development and maximizing play as a tool for learning,” Sonya says. “They need strong communication skills, the ability to develop relationships with family and community, interest in research and life-long learning, and to be able to develop inspiring learning environments using play and exploration as tools for teaching young children.”
Age range of workforce
Sonya says the early learning and child care sector employs all ages. Most caregivers and educators currently working in the sector are between 24 and 40 years old.
“The turnover used to be as high as 30 percent per year, based on research done 10 to 20 years ago,” Sonya says. “Although we have no current research, we know some centres have staff who have been working for them for 10 years or more. It seems the turnover is lower.”
Education and training
Early childhood educators working in designated early years centers must be certified through the Child Care Facilities Board. There are various levels of certification through the Board:
- entry level (three entry-level courses)
- level 1 (one-year education at college to earn a certificate in early learning and child care)
- level 2 (two-year post-secondary education to earn a diploma in early learning and child care)
The Early Childhood Development Association offers professional development training. They also have a resource library, publish a magazine three times a year, and circulate a weekly newsletter.
“The Association holds three annual provincial PD training days; two days in October and one in May. We offer up to 80 hours of ongoing training during the year. We choose topics based on the interest of the membership. Sometimes it’s focused on the role of the educator (e.g. infant care) or a skill they want to enhance (e.g. communication with families). These training opportunities are extremely important for educators to attend as they enhance the quality of programs and services our Island children receive.”
Education options on PEI
Holland College – Diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education is a two-year program. Admission requirements include:
- completion of Grade 12 or equivalent
- 40 hours of volunteer or paid work at a licensed child care centre prior to program start date
- a resumé outlining the person’s work and volunteer experience and any other information relevant to the program.
Interested in taking a credit course but don’t want to register for the entire Early Childhood Care and Education program? You can take individual credit courses toward a diploma or certificate program.
College Acadie – Diploma, Early Childhood Educator: The two-year program prepares students to work as educators in French and bilingual early childhood centres, family resource centres, recreation programs, and more.
The Early Childhood Assistant Certificate is a one-year program which allows students to earn credits on ten specific courses and complete a practicum.
University of PEI – Bachelor of Child and Family Studies: This two-year post-diploma degree is available to graduates of diploma programs in Early Childhood Education at Holland College or similar post-secondary institutions.
Successful completion of a grade 12 math course (or an equivalent course) is strongly recommended. Students in the Bachelor of Child and Family Studies must complete a total of 60 semester hours at UPEI.
Careers in this field: Parent Educator, Child and Family Services Officer, Youth Program Manager, Early Years Centre Director, Early Childhood Educator, and Early Childhood Coach.
“We just wrapped up a huge blended Early Learning and Child Care training program funded and supported by SkillsPEI and the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture and offered by Holland College and College Acadie that involved over 170 people training at various levels. Approximately 46 people earned a full diploma. The diploma program took over five years to complete.
“While this program is over, SkillsPEI offers other training programs employers can access for their staff.”
Wages and benefits
The provincial government introduced a wage grid for designated early years centres, which other centers have been attempting to provide as well. Directors at designated early years centres earn $21.42/hour; at non-designated centres, the rate ranges between approximately $16 to $18/hour. The highest wage for an early years centre educator is $17.22/hour.
Early Years Centres are jointly funded by government and by parent fees. Parent fees are regulated, are competitive with other provinces, and have not increased since 2014.
The wage grid increased by two percent in July 2016. “The latest wage increase will increase the value placed on the work and heighten recognition of the professional practice. Educators bring a specialized bank of knowledge to their job and support healthy families as well as healthy child development.” Educators’ wage increases do not affect parent fees or childcare subsidies.
“Designated centres offer employee benefits, as do many private centres, such as medical and dental plans, and some may have a 50/50 payment split between the centre and the staff,” Sonya says. “Our association offers a group plan to members.”
Difficult positions to fill
“Bilingual centres require educators to speak French and to have an early childhood diploma. It’s a challenge to fill these positions.
“Hiring staff is often a challenge for rural centres, and Island wide before and after school programs struggle to find and retain staff.”
Sonya says when kindergarten switched from community-based to public school in 2010, the children attending licensed child care centres became much younger.
“There were more infants and two year olds in centres, which made the work more demanding. An increase in age appropriate child development matters such as separation anxiety, teething, and toilet training were more wide spread, on top of the educational expectations.
“Educators have to be good problem solvers, always be researching new teaching techniques, and have good leadership, observation and collaboration skills.”
Best way to get your foot in the door
“Centres are always looking for volunteers. Contact a centre to find out about their needs. People can take an introductory course through Holland College or College Acadie, or contact our association for information on starting a career in childhood development.”
Phase 2 of the PEI Preschool Excellence Initiative will start soon. An Early Learning and Child Care Advisory Committee will be making recommendations on the continued direction of early learning and childcare in the province.
“ECDA is an active member of this committee. We will share the priorities that our members have made clear, including advancing a wage scale for all early childhood educators, the role special needs educators are playing in our sector, and improving the Child Care Subsidy program.”
“There is still a huge need licensed infant care spaces,” Sonya says. “The association would like to meet people interested in providing a satellite service to a childcare centre. If someone is currently running an in-home centre, or wishes to open one and wants to partner with a childcare centre in the area, our association would help to bridge that partnership.”
“Licensed school age centres are also struggling to hire staff. This is a great position, typically part-time, for anyone interested in supporting school aged children to have some fun after school or perhaps with some homework or developing social skills.
“If you are looking to re-enter the workforce on a full-time or part-time basis, we would be happy to provide more information on these exciting positions.”
For more information, call Sonya Hooper at 902-368-1866 or visit www.earlychildhooddevelopment.ca.