The Nationals WA have promised to deliver more qualified childcare workers in regional areas to address the skills shortage and support high quality early childhood education.
Leader Mia Davies said The Nationals WA will immediately lift an exemption which prevents childcare workers in regional areas from accessing discounted course fees through the State Government’s Lower Fees, Local Skills initiative.
“The Nationals understand the importance of delivering quality early childhood education through childcare centres but service providers in regional WA face unique challenges especially around access to qualified workers,” Ms Davies said.
In line with the National Quality Framework, the State Government requires at least 50 per cent of childcare centre staff to hold diploma-level qualifications.
“Many centres in regional WA are given an exemption to continue operating if they cannot meet this quota, however, this means regional families aren’t getting access to qualified educators in the same way they would if they lived in Perth,” Ms Davies said.
“Research shows that quality early childhood education is important in developing the cognitive, social and emotional skills kids need for their future.
“One solution to address the lack of diploma-level childcare educators is to upskill existing staff, however high course fees present a significant barrier for staff and childcare centres,” Ms Davies said.
“The State Government’s Lower fees, Local Skills policy penalises existing childcare staff, whereas new workers to the sector can access courses for just $1,200.
“This has had the undesirable effect of staff shifting to other centres to be classified as a new worker, or centres choosing not to upskill staff because they can’t afford it.”
Ms Davies said The Nationals’ policy represented a savings of around $6,600 per childcare educator and would support up to 250 educators each year to gain diploma-level qualifications.
“Regional childcare centres play an important role in the community fabric of regional WA,” Ms Davies said.
“Having access to affordable, quality childcare helps parents return to the workforce, supports regional economies, and provides social benefits for parents and children.”
Ms Davies made the commitment, worth up to $1.65m per year, in Geraldton today alongside local MP Ian Blayney and workers in the childcare sector, and said funding would be made available through the Department of Training and Workforce Development.