TAFE only solution for workforce crisis in early childhood education: new report

A new report has warned that an urgent investment in TAFE by the Federal Government is critical to solve the alarming workforce shortages in Australia’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector.

The number of job vacancies in the ECEC sector have doubled since the pandemic and providers are currently reporting an astonishing 6000 job vacancies per month.

The report, titled ‘Rebuilding the Early Childhood Education and Care Industry in Australia’, released today by the Carmichael Centre has highlighted the need for building a powerful skills pipeline through a properly funded TAFE system.

Author Dr. Mark Dean has called for expanding high quality vocational education and training provision for new ECEC workers through a properly funded TAFE system that is best positioned to meet the sector’s staffing needs.

The report forecasts demand for new ECEC graduates at 41,500 per year by 2030, which substantially exceeds current early childhood education training completion rates. It has outlined a two-pronged approach to meet this demand:

  • Public provision of vocational education and training through greater investment in TAFE to sustain a growing, in-demand workforce
  • Increased levels of public funding to create secure work and improve quality and compensation of jobs for ECEC workers

The report has also highlighted that the ECEC industry is beset by unstable jobs, low wages, and lack of pathways for career advancement for educators, a situation that must be addressed immediately to ensure attraction and retention of a high-quality workforce.

“The AEU welcomes the findings of the new report released by the Carmichael Centre,” said Correna Haythorpe, Australian Education Union Federal President.

“The report echoes the AEU’s key concerns for VET and for Early Childhood Education and Care in Australia.

“There are immense economic and social benefits associated with building a world-class public ECEC system staffed with top-notch graduates from public TAFE institutions.

“TAFE is the anchor institution for the provision of high-quality vocational education and is best positioned to meet the scale of skills and training requirements needed to plug the shortage of early childhood educators.

“Through investment in infrastructure, diverse course offerings and advanced training facilities, TAFE can aid the recovery and sustainable development of Australia’s ECEC sector.

“Unfortunately, the  Morrison Government’s blatant policy preferences for private, market-based provision of ECEC services as well as vocational education has caused enormous damage.

“As a result, we have an ECEC industry characterised by insecure work and poor compensation that is falling behind significantly on international benchmarks.

“The Morrison Government’s detrimental policies have had far-reaching consequences, making it harder for educators to deliver high-quality education to children.

“Every child in Australia must have access to high-quality early childhood education, which has proven benefits for their long-term growth and development. This starts with a high- quality, well remunerated and professionally supported ECEC workforce that has undertaken their qualifications with TAFE.

“An urgent intervention by the next federal government is needed to ensure greater public investment in resolving the looming ECEC workforce shortages through properly funding TAFE.

“Australia’s children are counting on that investment.”