I speak often about the Minister’s Consultation Table (MCT). Manitoba is one of jurisdictions that has established an advisory table under its Canada-wide Action Plan.
“The Minister’s Consultation Table provides valuable information and feedback to assist in modernizing Manitoba’s child care system, as well as strengthening the regulated ELCC sector through future multi-year agreements with the government of Canada. Membership includes a range of sector representatives that bring diverse perspectives to the table. Membership comprises family home child care providers (1), not-for-profit facilities (9) from urban low income (14) and rural communities (5), for-profit providers (3), sector advocacy organizations (4), post-secondary educators offering early childhood education programs (1), Indigenous (3) and French language child care representatives (3) and, non-regulated programs (1)”[i]
I suspect that some readers are currently thinking, “But how much advising or consulting does the Table really do?” Fair enough, good question. It would be disingenuous of me to say that the table had meaningful feedback on Manitoba’s first Action Plan under the agreement (2021-2022 to 2022-2023). However, as of the most recent MCT meeting, the tides feel like they are turning. Table members have been transparent in their communication about the direction of the MCT to make it a far more consultative and supportive process. As such, all members were asked to re-read the original Terms of Reference and outline what has been happening and provide recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of the Table. Future meetings will be held far more regularly and for some full day sessions to ensure that there is ample and meaningful time allotted as Manitoba begins to negotiate its next Action Plan. And speaking of the upcoming Action Plan, it will cover the next three years of the Agreement (2023-2024, 2024-2025, 2025-2026) and will see just over $874M transferred into Manitoba during these time periods. Think about that…that is an incredible amount of money that will be invested into affordability, accessibility, inclusivity, flexibility and most critically, quality.
It has been clearly communicated to the MCT that the first priority is the workforce recruitment and retention strategy, focusing on a comprehensive workforce strategy, training institutions/opportunities and remuneration. Other priorities include alignment and collaboration between early learning and child care and the K-12 system (It’s time to revive Educaring!), communication, consultation and engagement of the sector and other issues as they arise (ahem, Subsidy Advance as an example). Either the Minister and/or his staff will be attending the meetings. This will allow for them to hear first-hand from the Table experts about the fundamental components required in building the system in Manitoba.
But let’s go back to a workforce strategy, hmmm, where to start? Oh wait, where did I see policy recommendations related to workforce development and support? Ah, yes – MCCA’s Roadmap to a Quality Early Learning and Child Care System in Manitoba. Within this section of the Roadmap, there are nine policy recommendations specific to setting the momentum to create a comprehensive workforce strategy.
In summary (and in a condensed version) they are:
Policy actions related to qualifications, certification and ongoing professional learning of the early learning and child care workforce
Although Manitoba has strong regulatory requirements for ECEs relative to other Canadian jurisdictions, these requirements remain below the international benchmarks that call for 50 percent of staff to have degree level qualifications. In a recent survey of members, over 30% of facilities do not meet current regulations for the required number of educators certified as an ECE II or an ECE III. A long-term workforce strategy will require a plan to enhance the educational and certification requirements. In the short-term, Manitoba should focus on increasing the qualifications of existing CCAs and family child care providers, and developing a recruitment and retention plan to ensure an adequate supply of qualified ECEs to meet expansion targets.
Review and expand pathways to early childhood certification
Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning could increase opportunities for individuals to become certified ECEs by:
Invest in the expansion of postsecondary ECE programs
As we know, there is a shortage of certified ECEs to meet the current regulations. And with a target of 23,000 new spaces, there is an estimated need for more than 3,000 additional certified ECE IIs and ECE IIIs.
Review and strengthen the educational requirements for licensed family child care providers
Manitoba has committed to piloting an agency model of family child care, where providers are approved, supported and monitored by Early Childhood Educators in a licensed agency. The Early Learning and Child Care Commission (2016) found that licensed providers valued their independence, autonomy and operating a small business. Many individually licensed providers may not choose to become part of agency. Options should be explored with Advanced Education, Skills and Immigration for specific family child care certificate programs that can articulate to a two-year ECE diploma.
Require regular renewal of certification and associated ongoing professional learning requirements
Once an individual is certified as an ECE there are no requirements to either renew the certification or complete any ongoing professional learning. It is essential that educators, and especially centre directors, be familiar with current approaches to pedagogy, leadership and management practices. The Manitoba Child Care Association’s Human Resource Management Guide recommends a minimum of 24 hours professional learning a year, as does the ministry’s Best Practice Licensing Manual for Early Learning and Child Care Centres.
Develop and fund a common provincial salary scale and benefit package for all certified early childhood educators that reflects their level of education, experience and job function, based on the Manitoba Child Care Association’s Market Competitive Salary Guideline Scale
The Early Learning and Child Care Program should work with the MCCA and other sector stakeholders to develop and implement a provincial salary scale based on the Market Competitive Salary Guideline Scale. A wage scale for CCAs, and compensation for licensed family child care providers should reflect the postsecondary ECE courses taken and participation in ongoing professional development.
Review and address working conditions for staff
In addition to increasing wages and benefits, improvements in the working conditions of early childhood educators are required to improve job satisfaction and morale, help reduce staff turnover and to encourage qualified staff to remain in the field. Changes or new initiatives should be introduced only after consultation with sector and other relevant stakeholders.
Develop professional profiles for educators and relevant job descriptions
The Early Learning and Child Care Program should build on the job descriptions contained in the MCCA’s Human Resource Management Guide and work with the Manitoba Child Care Association, the Canadian Child Care Federation, the Child Care Qualifications and Training Committee to confirm core competencies and standards of practice for different front line and supervisory roles in centre-based child care programs.
Policy actions related to data collection, monitoring and evaluation
Regularly collected and compiled data on the workforce, including information on turnover within the sector or on those leaving the sector altogether will be important to inform a comprehensive workforce strategy and to assess the effectiveness of current or future policies or initiatives.
Compile and analyze human resources information collected from centre directors
Regular reporting on staff qualifications, the staffing complement within the centre, professional development opportunities provided, wages and benefits, turnover, and human resources practices should be required of all centres as a condition of core funding.
Conduct regular surveys of staff and providers
Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning should conduct regular surveys of centre staff and licensed family child care providers to assess factors related to turnover, including staff and provider job satisfaction, participation in professional development, wages and benefits, and future intentions, including plans for retirement. The regular collection of such data will contribute to evaluating the impact of policy changes on recruitment and retention and on quality provision. (All 25 policy recommendations can be viewed in the Roadmap document.)
Posted by Jodie Kehl at 3:32 pm