EDMONTON - Today is the National Day of Action on Child Care & Early Learning. Child care advocate organizations Child Care Now Alberta and Public Interest Alberta have released a report called “Where is the Child Care?: How the Shortage of Early Childhood Educators Undermines Access in Alberta.” The report lays out the dire reality of the huge shortage of sufficiently-trained professionals in the child care sector.
“Child care advocates celebrated a milestone victory with the announcement of the federal government’s investment of over $30 billion into the creation of a national $10-a-day child care program,” said Dr. Susan Cake, chair of Child Care Now Alberta. “While this marks one of the most significant investments in a social program since Medicare, there are still a lot of unanswered questions and doubts about how this life-changing program can be implemented, especially in Alberta.”
The report shows that, while the provincial government has announced the creation of 65,000 new child care spaces, Alberta simply does not have enough qualified professionals working in the sector to properly staff these new spaces.
Alarmingly, the report shows that at the current pace at which early childhood educators (ECEs) are graduating from Alberta’s post-secondary institutions, it would take more than a decade to train the number necessary to staff the promised spaces.
“Parents in Alberta can’t afford to wait for more than a decade for these spaces to be properly staffed,” said Bradley Lafortune, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “You can’t have new hospitals without more nurses, or new schools without more teachers. This is no different. The Alberta Government must take immediate action to improve the workplace conditions of ECEs to attract more people to the sector, and retain the ones already working in the field.”
“There are concrete steps the government must take to address this shortage,” said Cake. “Immediately, they must introduce a wage grid for ECEs and ensure that benefits are standardized. The UCP must invest in the ECE workforce or these new spaces will never actually have children in them and only exist on paper.”
The report paints a damning picture of the UCP’s failure to protect quality in child care and early learning and lays out the many ways the Smith-led government has lowered standards for providers and workers, increasing burnout and attrition.
“The UCP’s impact on the child care and early learning sector is textbook neoliberalism — cut, deregulate, and privatize,” said Lafortune. “In an effort to ‘cut red tape’ they have eliminated necessary protections for both workers and children. They’ve taken money away from public and non-profit child care and put it into private hands. We need to build a province for all workers, all families and all kids..”
This report was released in conjunction with the calls to action of the national Child Care Now organization. Take a stand for access to child care here.