The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting closure or partial closure of the majority of settings, has had a profound impact on the early years workforce, with a substantial proportion of staff being placed on furlough or sadly losing their jobs. This is a difficult time for many, with huge uncertainty over what comes next. At such a time, it can be hard to look much beyond simply getting through each day and easy to lose touch with your career goals and long-term ambitions. There are however constructive and positive ways that early years practitioners can use this unexpected hiatus.
By using this time to engage in Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to develop and refresh their skills and knowledge, practitioners will be well-placed to successfully navigate the challenges that lie ahead, as life begins to return to normal or at least “the new normal”. There are many ways people can do this from the safety of home, including completing online courses, being active in online professional networks and keeping up to date with sector developments.
The CEEDA Report 2019 found that one of the biggest barriers to undertaking CPD for the early years workforce was time constraints. Many people now find themselves with some time that they can dedicate to CPD and should try to take advantage of this opportunity, where possible.
There are a range of funded online courses and e-learning opportunities available to practitioners (depending on their existing qualifications and level) to engage in CPD or gain new qualifications, such as building their digital skills – which have been shown to be so important over the last few months. Training providers and sector specialists can help both employers and practitioners to identify and access these.
For example, Learning Curve Group recently launched a campaign, #EducateWhilstYouIsolate to help people make the most of this time when they might be furloughed or unemployed and gain the qualifications the sector needs, all completed remotely online. From launch, the campaign saw expressions of interest from more than 13,000 learners in just eight days and it is anticipated it could lead to 5,000 learners per month enrolling and undertaking learning online. Information on the opportunities available to you can also be found via the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
Another great way is to join or become more active in an online professional network. We are seeing an increasing number of people looking for such opportunities to remain engaged with their peers and get advice and support. In recent weeks, CACHE, has seen rapid growth in the number of people joining its CACHE Alumni network – a free online professional membership group open to individuals and employers in the sector, with more than 1,000 new members signing up since the Covid-19 outbreak began.
Networks such as this also provide lots of free e-learning resources and online training, as well as signposting to external resources. Through CACHE Alumni, we have seen increased demand for online courses with relevance to the current crisis and managing its impact. Resources have been identified to support practitioners in areas such as Mental Health Awareness.
Being part of a professional network is also a great way to find job opportunities in your area and access advice from qualified careers advisors.
In a rapidly changing world, with new restrictions and safety measures likely to be in place for some time, keeping up to date with the latest sector news is crucial to ensure that you are on top of your game when you return to work, or at an advantage when applying for new roles. You can do this by reading key sector publications, keeping track of the latest updates from the Department for Education, Ofsted and others or listening to some of the fantastic sector focused podcasts.
Early Years Educators are likely to see a challenging labour market for some time to come. There will be more competition for jobs and roles available may change. There will also be new ways of working, new regulations and new challenges to manage. However, practitioners can use this time to prepare accordingly by gaining the skills and knowledge to give themselves a competitive edge in a challenging job market, or to enhance their practice ahead of returning to work. By doing so, the sector can come out of this stronger and offering the high-quality provision that children, parents and carers will need, as we start the process of recovery.
- Practical advice and thought-provoking content
- Weekly podcast discussing a quote with a focus on effecting change in the early learning world.
- Keeping you up to date with best practice, wellbeing and legislation from across the sector.
- Helping early childhood educators to derive satisfaction and achieve goals.
CACHE: More information here
Latest guidance from Gov.uk here