Case study: Jenny’s Early Learning Centres

Traineeships a winner for the early childhood workforce

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Chelsea and Shelly are generations apart, but they’re united in their excitement about working in early childhood education and care.

In no small way, that’s due to Australia’s apprenticeship and trainee system.

When Chelsea finished high school at 17, she saw an advertisement for a traineeship at Jenny’s Early Learning Centres in Bendigo, in central Victoria.

Her friends thought she was mad to apply. But 5 years later, she’s a room leader working with 20 toddlers – and couldn’t be happier.

Chelsea (left) and Shelly are gaining their qualifications onsite at Jenny’s ELC
Chelsea (left) and Shelly are gaining their qualifications onsite at Jenny’s ELC.

“It is even more rewarding than what I thought it would be,” Chelsea said.

Shelly is also a room leader at a Jenny’s ELC. She undertook her traineeship at age 46. Ten years later, she’s still with the service and glad she didn’t take the advice of her former workmates.

“I was sewing at a factory and they thought I was crazy to switch jobs. Having raised my own kids, why would I want to go back and look after other people’s kids?” Shelly said.

Since establishing its first centre in 2008, Jenny’s ELC has put traineeships at the heart of developing an energetic workforce and culture.

Jenny’s ELC employs 140 people across 5 centres. The family-run provider educates about 800 children enrolled in Centre Based Day Care and 3- and 4-year-old kindergarten.

Often, providers target workers who already have a Certificate III or Diploma in Children’s Services. Instead, Jenny’s ELC leans towards employing trainees, and it supports and pays for them to become qualified.

Managing director Darren Reid said about 1 in 4 staff was in training at any time, and about two-thirds of qualified staff had come through traineeship ranks.

“We’ve found trainees benefit from real-world experience. We give them time for their studies, and they can access great mentors,” Darren said.

He offered the following tips for those interested in the approach.

“Commit to your workforce. It takes time to develop people, but we are creating the amazing educators of the future,” Darren said.

“You also need to be flexible. Employees want work-life balance. Some of our people want to work later in the day because of family needs. We’ve also let trainees job share.”

Darren also recommended building a relationship with your registered training operator.

“We have the one trainer across sites for consistency and quality – they’re an extension of our team,” he explained.

Darren standing outside a child care centre
Darren recommends building a strong relationship with a registered training provider.

Jenny’s ELC has done remarkably well despite the difficulties of a tight employment market. Indeed, the business has found that giving people a taste of the industry as early as possible has created a pathway for job seekers and a source of talent for the business.

Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters MP said Jenny’s ELC traineeship program is a practical initiative, addressing workplace issues in early education.

“Early childhood educators are valuable contributors to society and deserve recognition for their work in educating our youngest Australians,” Ms Chesters said.

Federal Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly agreed.

“I recently had the pleasure of visiting Jenny’s ELC and witnessing the real difference that quality early education is making to children and families. And it’s such a delight to see educators and children thriving together.”

Chelsea and Shelly say they are enjoying the rewards.

“You’re involved as these children are gaining life skills – jumping, running, sharing, learning how to talk to other people,” Chelsea said.

And as Shelly put it:

“When I arrive in the morning, I’ve got a stack of excited kids running up to me. I love it. And I’m not going anywhere.”

Top 4 tips for a traineeship program at your service

  • Commit to your workforce: It takes time to develop people, but it’s an investment in their future, the children’s future, and the future of your business.

  • Be flexible: Explore flexible work arrangements and opportunities for staff to nurture their work-life balance.

  • Get to know your RTO: Your local registered training organisation can be an extension of your team, providing consistent advice, guidance and support.

  • Find out more: Early childhood educators are a priority under the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System. They can attract a wage subsidy for employers of 10% in the first and second years and 5% in the third year.

    Apprentices and trainees in priority occupations also receive a direct Apprentice Training Support Payment of up to $5,000 over 2 years.

Learn more about the Australian Apprenticeships Incentive System by visiting the Australian Apprenticeships website.