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Children’s Education and Care

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Children’s Education and Care sector, which is one component of the Community Services industry.

This sector provides education, care and support to children under eighteen years of age. The sub-sectors include:

  • Early childhood education and care (ECEC)
  • School age education and care
  • Outside school hours care (OSHC)
  • Education support.

The sector is large, diverse and growing. Children's education and care services operate under a number of different ownership/management arrangements, including private operators, community and non-profit organisations, state/territory and local governments, and public, independent and private schools. Service types recognised within the National Quality Framework (NQF) are Long-Day Care (LDC), Family Day Care (FDC), Outside School Hours Care (OSHC) and Preschools/Kindergartens.

The sector expects to experience strong growth over the next five years. Early childhood (pre-primary school) teacher job roles will experience the largest relative growth in the sector, growing by 22% or reaching 9,000 jobs by 2023. In absolute terms, child carers are expected to experience the largest surge in jobs, with a forecast of 27,600 jobs growth by 2023. Other noteworthy strong job growth trends over the next five years will be experienced by education aides (20.8% or 18,800 jobs), child care centre managers (20.9% growth to 16,000 jobs), primary school teachers (9.6% or 16,300 jobs) and secondary school teachers (7.1% or 9,900 jobs).

Vocational education and training (VET) is required for a range of Children’s Education and Care work roles such as:

  • Child Care Worker
  • Out of School Hours Care Worker
  • Teachers’ Aide.

Nationally recognised training for Children’s Education and Care occupations is delivered under the CHC – Community Services Training Package.

For more information on Community Sector and Development and Direct Client Care and Support please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the Children’s Education and Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment in the Child Care Services and Preschool Education industry sectors has increased over time, with further projected increases until 2024. Within these industry groupings Child Carers (also referred to in the industry as Early Childhood Educators) are the largest occupational group. It is also projected that the number of those employed as Child Carers will increase substantially up until 2024. Employment numbers in other relevant occupations within these sectors, namely Early Childhood (Pre-primary School) Teachers, Child Care Centre Managers and Education Aides, are also projected to increase substantially up until 2024.

A media release regarding the 2016 census indicates that in terms of absolute growth Child Carers was the second highest ‘largest growth’ occupation between 2011 and 2016. In addition, Early Childhood (Pre-Primary School) Teachers was the fourth highest percentage growth occupation between 2011 and 2016.

The 2016 National Early Childhood Education and Care workforce census report found that about 195,000 staff were employed in the Early Childhood Education and Care workforce during the week the survey was conducted. Over a half (56%) of this workforce were employed in long day care services, followed by family day care services (17%), outside school hours care (14%) and vacation care (12%).

Training trends

Training snapshot

There were almost 135,330 program enrolments in Children’s Education and Care-related qualifications in 2018 and almost 37,520 program completions. Both enrolments and completions decreased from 2017.

The program enrolments were split mainly between the certificate III level (52%) and the diploma or higher level (40%) in 2018. Seventy-eight percent of all enrolments were in the area of Early Childhood Education and Care with an intended occupation of Child Care Worker. A further 21% of qualifications were in Education Support with an intended occupation of Teachers’ Aide.

In 2018, 57% of enrolments were with private training providers, while TAFE institutes accounted for a further 30%. The majority of subjects were funded by government (65%) and domestic fee for service (29%). New South Wales had the single highest proportion of students enrolled in Children’s Education and Care-related qualifications in 2018, with 30%, followed by Queensland with 23% and Victoria with 23%. More than a third of training was delivered in New South Wales (36%), followed by 26% in Queensland and 22% in Victoria.

Apprenticeship and traineeship commencements have declined since 2012 but there was a much larger decline after 2014. There was also a large decline in completions after 2014. The vast majority of apprenticeships and traineeships in 2018 had the intended occupation of Child Care Worker. The largest proportion of apprenticeships and traineeships were reported in New South Wales with 46%, followed by Queensland with 19% and Victoria with 16%.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, please visit NCVER’s VET Students by Industry. If you are prompted to log in, please select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region please visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, please sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Children’s Education and Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast suggests the top priority skills for the sector are all soft skills, ranging from teamwork and communication through to stress tolerance and flexibility. The top five identified generic skills are:

  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills)
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self management (adaptability)
  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Customer Service / Marketing.

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers in the sector were communication skills and building effective relationships. The most advertised occupations were Early Childhood (Pre-primary School) Teachers followed by Child Carers. The top employers were Goodstart Childcare Limited and Guardian Early Learning Group.

The Children’s Education and Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, affirms that educators play a key role in supporting the social, emotional, physical and educational needs of infants and young children in various early childhood settings. Children are a vulnerable group in society and quite often people working in the children’s education and care sectors are in a position to identify concerns and to work with families, allied health professionals and broader groups within communities with respect to sensitive matters which affect children’s health and wellbeing. This means that emotional intelligence and ‘soft’ skills, in addition to strong communication and the ability to engage with children, have always been critically important attributes among workers in the sector.

The above Skills Forecast summarises the challenges which need to be addressed in the sector as:

  • Government policy/legislative framework reviews and modifications
  • The attraction and retention of staff
  • The challenges faced by regional and remote communities
  • The need for diversity and variance in perspectives
  • The need for ongoing professional development.

The Children’s Education and Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast states that the Children’s Education and Care (CEC) sub-sectors are all experiencing skills shortages with their current workforce. Skills gaps identified represent a combination of technical and 'soft skill' areas, with examples including:

  • Digital literacy and computer application
  • Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN)
  • Communication (to engage with families, work peers, allied health professionals, etc.)
  • Business skills (in particular for Family Day Care providers, to become adept at understanding the liabilities and responsibilities, including risk management, of running a small business)
  • Problem solving
  • Leadership of, and within, work groups
  • Reflection.

Reflection is a particular skill area that has been raised during the update work of the CEC Training Package. Terminology and associated practices have implications for the skills acquired and used by educators throughout their careers. Reflective practice is increasingly recognised as an essential skill area for educators to possess, as it is considered highly effective in supporting children's advanced learning and development. Industry has particularly voiced that 'critical reflection' is a high-level cognitive skill that needs to be learnt and developed over time with practical experience.

The Children’s Education and Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast highlights that the sector has been evolving over time in response to key reviews and framework developments, and it is expected to continue adapting as reforms are implemented. For example, the most recent report, Lifting Our Game: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood Interventions (December 2017), has identified workforce reforms as one of the key reform themes for the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector. In particular, it makes a specific recommendation regarding workforce development and establishing a new national early childhood education and care workforce strategy. The review calls for the broader view of education to include schools and early childhood education collectively, and for maximum consistency of goals and objectives across governments (i.e. federal, state/territory and local) to achieve better outcomes.

The above Skills Forecast also draws attention to an area for possible future development – the emerging need for national Training Package Products that address two key leadership skills areas. Firstly, there is a growing awareness of the importance of management skills for those in senior positions in CEC services. These include finance and administration and, particularly, skills needed for the management of staff. Secondly, every service under the National Quality Framework (NQF) is required to have a designated Educational Leader, and there is an emerging need for education and training with a focus on pedagogical leadership. This could lead to an Advanced Diploma qualification with two alternative streams: managerial leadership and educational leadership.

Staff retention is a significant issue within the ECEC sector. There is competition between long-day care services and preschools/schools to attract and retain teachers. Preschools/schools typically offer teachers higher salaries, shorter and more consistent hours, more leave entitlements and a professional status. As a result, many ECEC teachers leave the long-day care sector due to relatively low wages, longer hours, low professional status and difficult work conditions (i.e. both physically demanding and stressful). The Children’s Education and Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast cites a recent Australian study that found one in five educators plan to leave their job within twelve months due to low pay, feeling undervalued and an increase in the amount of time spent on paperwork. Cited reasons for low pay in the ECEC sector include: a high proportion of female workers; dependency of educators on modern awards that set minimum standards of pay and conditions; and various funding models that operate in the sector. The current low level of remuneration makes it difficult to retain highly qualified staff. Furthermore, the unfavourable work circumstances can act as barriers to educators investing additional time and resources into upskilling/professionalisation.

The issue of staff turnover can act as a disincentive to employers to invest in workplace training. However, ongoing professional development opportunities are necessary for quality provision of ECEC services. ECEC is recognised as a profession that requires strong and broad-reaching relationship-building skills as well as specialist skills and knowledge which support children's development and learning. Quality professional development learning opportunities are required to ensure workforce skills remain updated and relevant to the workplace environment, and to ensure that industry is kept abreast of evidence-based theory and practice. Additionally, professional development must continue post-qualification to support the embedding of learning. The National Quality Standard outlines the requirement for continuous improvement through the implementation of ‘effective self-assessment and quality improvement processes'. Well-trained and qualified ECEC educators equipped with the relevant knowledge, skills and attributes provide quality outcomes for children. The NQF supports professionalisation through its updated and nationally consistent qualification requirements and references to capability, leadership, teaching and learning. The promotion of qualification pathways and professional learning expectations can also contribute to improved professionalisation in the industry.

In her thesis, Early Childhood Education and Care Preservice Teachers' Experiences of Articulation From Vocational Education and Training to Higher Education, Merryl L. Johnstone argues that ECEC in Australia is at a watershed, with significant legislation and policy requiring additional four-year-qualified Early Childhood teachers. This phenomenographic study examined the experiences of 16 Early Childhood preservice teachers who had articulated from Diploma programs to university-based Early Childhood teacher education programs. It reveals the conditions which enabled successful articulation to university, and contributes empirical insights into the politically-driven ECEC reform agenda and articulation as a national workforce strategy.

In 2018 the New South Wales Department of Education released the Early Childhood Education Workforce Strategy 2018–2022. This Workforce Strategy is designed to recognise and strengthen the sector's essential work and outlines a range of ongoing initiatives to reinforce and build on staff capabilities to sustainably meet the needs of children from all backgrounds and their families. The Workforce Strategy prioritises four key focus areas:

  • Promote the early childhood sector to the public as a critical part of a child's educational journey, and as an attractive field to build a career for prospective educators
  • Support the workforce to obtain qualifications and experience to prepare them for the workplace
  • Build the skills base of the workforce by supporting educators and teachers to attend professional development and update their qualifications and skills
  • Support services to retain educators and teachers, embed sustainable business practices and manage the challenges of staff turnover.

The OECD published Good Practice For Good Jobs in Early Childhood Education and Care by Chris Clarke and Antonela Miho in 2019. This report confirms that around the world, as in Australia, recruiting and retaining skilled staff is a long-standing challenge for the ECEC sector. OECD countries are increasingly demanding that ECEC staff be highly skilled and highly qualified, but a combination of low wages, a lack of status and public recognition, poor working conditions, and limited opportunities for professional development mean that recruitment and retention are frequently difficult. This report considers: What can countries do to build a highly qualified and well-trained ECEC workforce? What is the best route to increasing staff skills without exacerbating staff shortages? How can countries boost pay and working conditions in the context of limited resources? Building on past OECD work on ECEC, and drawing on the experience of OECD countries, the report outlines good practice policy measures for improving jobs in ECEC and for constructing a high-quality workforce.

The article Low Pay But Still We Stay: Retention in Early Childhood Education and Care by Paula McDonald, Karen Thorpe and Susan Irvine was published in the November 2018 issue of Journal of industrial relations. The article argues that a professional, skilled and engaged early childhood workforce is critical to economic and social productivity and positive life trajectories for children. Yet high staff turnover, skill loss and unmet standards of staff qualification pervade the sector, limiting optimal outcomes. For many early childhood educators, alternatives of better paid and less challenging sources of employment are available in other employment sectors, a fact that explains turnover rates as high as 30%. However, this study reverses the emphasis on why early childhood educators leave the sector and asks instead 'Why do so many stay?'. This question is a significant one when it is considered that the remuneration of educators in early childhood barely meets minimum wage thresholds, and that they face challenging working conditions and few opportunities for career progression. The findings of the study contribute to an understanding of retention in early childhood education and care occupations specifically, and in feminised, low-paid occupational groups more broadly. The study also informs policy and strategy responses to low retention in the early childhood sector in Australia and internationally.

Links and resources

Government bodies

Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA)

Department for Education (South Australia)

Department of Education (New South Wales)

Department of Education (Northern Territory)

Department of Education (Queensland)

Department of Education (Tasmania)

Department of Education (Western Australia)

Department of Education and Training (Victoria)

Education Directorate (Australian Capital Territory)

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australian Childcare Alliance (ACA)

Australian Community Children's Services (ACCS)

Australian Teacher Aide (ATA)

Australian Tutoring Association (ATA)

Community Child Care (CCC)

Community Early Learning Australia (CELA)

Early Childhood Australia (ECA)

Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA)

Family Day Care Australia

National Outside School Hours Services Alliance (NOSHSA)

Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC)

 

Employee Associations

Australian Education Union (AEU)

Australian Services Union (ASU)

United Workers Union

 

Relevant research

Early Childhood Education and Care Preservice Teachers' Experiences of Articulation From Vocational Education and Training to Higher Education – Merryl L. Johnstone

Early Childhood Education Workforce Strategy 2018–2022 – New South Wales Department of Education

Good Practice For Good Jobs in Early Childhood Education and Care – Chris Clarke and Antonela Miho

High-use Training Package Qualifications: Childcare – Patrick Korbel

Lifting Our Game: Report of the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools through Early Childhood Interventions – Susan Pascoe and Deborah Brennan

Low Pay But Still We Stay: Retention in Early Childhood Education and Care – Paula McDonald, Karen Thorpe and Susan Irvine

The Role of Professional Development in Improving Quality and Supporting Child Outcomes in Early Education and Care – Iram Siraj, Denise Kingston and Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2019, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2024
    • 871 Child Care Services
    • 801 Preschool Education
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2024
    • Child Carers
    • Early Childhood (Pre-primary School) Teachers
    • Child Care Centre Managers
    • Education Aides.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 16 December 2019 https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202019?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2019, May quarter
    • 871 Child Care Services
    • 801 Preschool Education.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 3 digit ANZSIC:
    • 871 Child Care Services
    • 801 Preschool Education
    • 960 Private Households Employing Staff.
  • 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • CHC – Community Services Training Package
  • Children’s Services
    • CHC30402 - Certificate III in Children's Services
    • CHC30708 - Certificate III in Children's Services
    • CHC30712 - Certificate III in Children's Services
    • CHC50302 - Diploma of Children's Services
    • CHC60208 - Advanced Diploma of Children's Services
  • Early Childhood Education and Care
    • CHC30113 - Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care
    • CHC50113 - Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care
    • CHC50908 - Diploma of Children's Services (Early childhood education and care)
  • Education Support
    • CHC30213 - Certificate III in Education Support
    • CHC30808 - Certificate III in Education Support
    • CHC30812 - Certificate III in Education Support
    • CHC40213 - Certificate IV in Education Support
    • CHC41708 - Certificate IV in Education Support
    • CHC41712 - Certificate IV in Education Support
    • CHC51308 - Diploma of Education Support
  • Out of School Hours Care
    • CHC41208 - Certificate IV in Children's Services (Outside school hours care)
    • CHC41212 - Certificate IV in Children's Services (Outside school hours care)
    • CHC50202 - Diploma of Out of School Hours Care
    • CHC51008 - Diploma of Children's Services (Outside school hours care)
  • School Age Education and Care
    • CHC40113 - Certificate IV in School Age Education and Care
    • CHC50213 - Diploma of School Age Education and Care.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

Community Services Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2018 commencements
  • 2010 to 2018 completions
  • 2018 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2018 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Children’s Education and Care IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2019, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2019, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2016 and June 2019 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / occupations
    • Community and Personal Service Workers, Managers, Professionals
    • 871 Child Care Services
    • 801 Preschool Education
  • Employers
    • 2411 Early Childhood (Pre-Primary School) Teachers
    • 4211 Child Carers
    • 1341 Child Care Centre Managers
    • 2412 Primary School Teachers
    • 4221 Education Aides
    • 871 Child Care Services
    • 801 Preschool Education.
Updated: 31 Mar 2020
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