How did you get into childcare? Was it always a childhood dream or was it something you stumbled into? Were you inspired as a teenager to take an apprenticeship, or have you come to early years work through academic study such as a teaching qualification or even a childhood development or psychology route?

What is interesting about these questions is that if you ask early years staff, they will almost certainly have a variety of routes into the profession and varying levels of qualifications. In the past, childcare professions have perhaps been side-lined by some, thinking of it as an extension of looking after your own family or as an ‘easy’ option. Neither of which are true, as any of the 802,600 people working in any of the 72,000 early years provisions in England in 2021 will tell you.

What might be true however, is that many people working in childcare are unsure of their career progression and how they can improve their knowledge, experience, responsibility and ultimately, their income within the profession. So as we celebrate National Careers Week this month, is it time that you took a fresh look at your career and see how you can develop both personally and professionally? And National Careers Week could be the perfect catalyst you need.

National Careers Week

National Careers Week (NCW) is run by a not-for-profit, community interest company with the aim of helping provide a focus for careers guidance work at an important stage in the academic calendar to help support young people leaving education. There are three groups that NCW aims to empower:

  1. Students – the NCW website provides lots of free CEIAG (Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance) resources for school leavers which link what they are doing in their education at school, to the world of work, employment and training. Often students are not clear about what they want to do after they take their GCSEs, A’ Levels and BTEC exams. Some may aspire to university, but many want to start their careers but may not know where to begin. By giving students information, advice and resources, NCW aims to help them make better, more-informed choices. There is also a very inspiring video about hope on the website, which can help young people identify with others feeling stressed about their next steps, and help them to find solutions.
  2. Educators and advisers – each school is obligated to provide high quality careers advice to its students, so NCW also provide resources which are free to use in classrooms and colleges. These can all be mapped against the Gatsby Benchmarks, which are a set of standards for good practice in careers advice in the UK.
  3. Organisations – NCW offers employers and organisations a chance to engage with and inspire their future workforce.

During NCW, which runs from the 7th to the 12th March this year, you can take part in events, talks, workshops and download any of the resources from this year and previous years. You can also get involved by using the hashtag #NCW2022 on your social media sites to show your support. The website is full of resources from assembly plans, worksheets, industry insights, and a TV channel playing host to some of the best career-related videos. 

Getting started in childcare

One of the good things about the childcare industry is that people can start with very few qualifications and work their way up. Apprenticeships are one of the first ways that school leavers can get into the early years sector as they learn on the job and can earn a wage at the same time. Parenta has been helping match trainees and providers for years, so if your setting is looking to recruit some Level 2 and/or Level 3 apprentices, call us on 0800 002 9242 or visit our “starting your career” page on our website for more information on how we can help. Even before that however, teenagers can enhance their prospects by doing childcare courses at school and getting some experience with babysitting and/or volunteering in a nursery setting. 

What next?

It’s not just school leavers, however, who need careers information and advice. The employment landscape is changing and we are now going through what is being called the “fourth industrial revolution”, where the employment market is set to change due to the availability of computers and machines which will be able to perform tasks once only done by humans. Some industries are set to decline and jobs in these sectors will be lost. Encouragingly though, the education sector is ear-marked for growth in the next 20 years, and the care sector is set for high growth.

Many of us will change jobs and even industries many times in the course of our working life and will need to keep our skills updated and relevant in order to keep pace with the changing labour market. According to one study, 30 years ago, the half-life of a skill (which is a measure of the time it takes for the value of a particular skill to decrease by half) was approximately 26 years. Today, it is estimated to be less than 5 years, and falling. This means that it is more important than ever to continue growing and learning as childcare professionals, to stay on top of the game.

Career path and progression

There are many qualifications that childcare professionals can undertake in their career, starting at Level 1 such as a L1 Award/Certificate/Diploma in Caring for Children, and working up to a Level 6 qualification which is a degree level award. These are things like a Degree in Early Childhood Studies or a Degree in Early Years Practice. And there are obviously lots of other qualifications in between including vocational and apprenticeships too.

The table on the right shows a cut-down version of some qualifications with increasing levels, and some of the relevant jobs that these would be suitable for.

There are also qualifications at higher levels such as post-graduate/Master’s degrees at Level 9, and Level 10 qualifications which are at Doctorate level. For a fuller guide to childcare qualifications across a whole career from Pearson, see here.

Start your own business

Finally, it is many people’s dream to own their own business and maybe open a setting of your own, in which case you might want to take more qualifications in management or business to help you get started. Knowing how to look after children and give them the best start in life is one thing, but if you don’t do your tax and VAT returns on time, then you won’t be in business very long. And remember that even to set up a childminding business in your own home, you need to register with Ofsted and have relevant qualifications.

What is clear is that childcare is a career, not just a job, so why not look at your options this March with a mind to improving yourself this year?

Useful websites and information





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