Nova Scotia

Province adds 60 spaces to NSCC early childhood educator program

In a bid to meet a growing demand for early childhood educators, the Nova Scotia government is creating 55 spaces in the ECE training program at the Nova Scotia Community College's Akerley Campus in Dartmouth.

Government expected to expand pre-primary program one final time to 48 more schools next fall

Education Minister Zach Churchill said Thursday the province is adding 60 spaces to the Nova Scotia Community College program for early childhood educators. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

With the fourth and final year of the pre-primary expansion coming in September 2020, the Nova Scotia government is increasing the number of spaces available to train early childhood educators.

The Akerley Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College is getting an extra $283,000 to create 60 more spaces, starting in January. It will double the number of students currently in the program there.

Last year, the provincial government funded 135 new seats across the province.

Zach Churchill, the education and early childhood development minister, made the announcement Thursday. He made the announcement in a classroom with students from the program present.

He wished them well entering a job market with plenty of demand for their skills.

Education Minister Zach Churchill speaks with first-year students in the early childhood educator program at the Akerley Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College on Thursday. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

"We need about 350 more over the coming two years," Churchill told reporters afterwards. "That's to accommodate the growing regulated childcare sector we believe will need approximately 100 new early childhood educators to satisfy the demand in that growing sector.

"And we're going to need around 250 for the pre-primary implementation as well."

Next fall, the provincial government is expected to expand the pre-primary program one final time to 48 more schools across Nova Scotia. There are more than 3,000 four-year-olds currently enrolled in the play-based program at 205 schools.

The pre-primary program has made it hard for some daycare operations to keep staff or find new workers because the pre-primary jobs pay more and include pension and benefits.

The minister recently set up a working group to examine staffing issues and the issue of what the province is paying ECEs and what private and non-profit daycare operators can pay.

One of the other issues is staff-to-child ratios.

Looking for workers outside the province

Churchill said the province was working hard to find enough workers to meet the demand, first by more training and also by trying to lure back about 2,000 Nova Scotians trained but not working as ECEs. There is also an effort to find trained workers in other countries.

As far as training was concerned, the minister said this was the extent of expansion plans.

PC MLA Tim Halman called this latest expansion of training "a step in the right direction," but he said his party would be keeping a close eye on the situation to see if it was enough to alleviate the "extreme" problems being faced by daycare operators across Nova Scotia.