Major new push aims to recruit more men into childcare roles
MORE men should be encouraged to take up jobs in childcare in Scotland according to early years experts, who claim that male employees are needed to boost the workforce and provide positive role models for children.
The call comes as the Scottish Government launched a recruitment drive to attract an additional 11,000 staff by 2020 in a bid to deliver its promise of 30 hours of free childcare each week.
Currently the provision is 600 hours a year for all three and four-year-olds, or around 16 hours a week during term time. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also claimed spending on childcare is set to double to £840 million in the same time frame.
Recruitment materials, as well as ads on TV and social media channels, will feature men as well as women and focus on the importance of a job working with the youngest children, a role which was once dismissed as “playing with the paint pots” and considered low status.
Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said the proportion of men in the early learning and childcare had substantially increased in recent years, due to targeted recruitment campaigns and free or subsidised routes to training and qualifications.
“However, the workforce remains female-dominated and there is still a lot of work to be done,” she added. Just three per cent of workers are men.
She claimed that men are reluctant to go into the sector in part because of the poor pay – UK Government statistics suggest that 80 per cent of practitioners and 50 per cent of supervisors are paid below the living wage.
Brock added. “We don’t want men to feel excluded because of a completely outdated notion that this is not men’s work. What more important work is there than helping children learn, develop, fulfil their potential and have secure and happy lives?”
Nick Reynolds, a senior childcare officer at Edinburgh’s Gilmerton Child and Family Centre, who has worked in childcare for 22 years, took up his first early years post after he was let go from his job offshore.
“Then I was one of the only men working in childcare,” he said. “It’s improved but we are still massively outnumbered.” Money, he said, was a barrier. “I went from earning £400 a week offshore to £75 a week in a nursery. I figured it was a job I loved so it was worth it. It’s got better over the years and there’s also more opportunity for career progression.
“The understanding of the importance of nursery education has also improved. Before it was seen as just kids playing before they started school. Now we are realising that high-quality early years education leads to better outcomes and the benefits are being recognised.”
The Gilmerton centre has four male members of staff in its 26-strong childcare team, and it considers it important for children, many of whom come from single parent families, to see caring male role models. “It’s important that we promote that equality,” added Reynolds. “Some of the boys might want to do this job when they are older. It is very rewarding.”
His colleague James Saddler agreed. Ten years ago he benefited from a free training scheme which has put over 1,800 men through childcare qualifications since its inception in 2001. “When I was growing up it never seemed like an option,” he said. “I worked for a concrete company but I was so bored. Now I’m never going to make tons of money but it’s fun and every day is different.”
Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald confirmed that the Scottish Government will be aiming to recruit more men as part of the recruitment drive.
He said: “By recruiting more men into the childcare profession, children will have more male role models to look up to in their early years.”
Ellen Broomé, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, called on the Scottish Government to address the issue of low pay to benefit all employers. She added: “Childcare professionals do one of the most valuable jobs out there – they care for and educate our future – but this overwhelmingly female workforce is chronically underpaid and undervalued.”
James Saddler, a childcare officer at the Gilmerton Child and Family Centre, changed careers to work in early years Photograph: Michael Boyd