Two initiatives to retain staff in early childhood sector

Ms Peh Li Lin, director of Zee Schoolhouse, hopes to improve HR policies at the centre in order to retain employees.
Ms Peh Li Lin, director of Zee Schoolhouse, hopes to improve HR policies at the centre in order to retain employees.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Pre-school educators often do not stay long at the job.

To retain them, a year-long programme to improve the human resource capability of such operators was introduced yesterday.

At the same time, another programme is being launched to advise jobseekers eyeing a career in early childhood education, a sunrise industry.

Twenty-four professionals from the sector - including pre-school teachers, leaders of care centres and curriculum specialists - have been roped in to be career advisers.

The two initiatives are a joint effort of Workforce Singapore, Association of Early Childhood and Training Services and Association for Early Childhood Educators.

But even as they were announced by Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck yesterday, industry professionals were already brimming with ideas on ways to reduce the attrition rate.

These include giving teachers adult-size furniture, letting mothers work flexible hours and hiring administrators to reduce paperwork for teachers.

Director of Zee Schoolhouse Peh Li Lin said teachers who quit cited family demands, long hours and the 51/2-day work week. Her centre lets five mothers work flexible hours as part of a trial.

Also, doing work on child-size tables and chairs can be very uncomfortable, said an educator.

These are set to be issues that the consultants of the Progressive Human Resource Practices Early Adopter Programme will look into.

A total of 22 centres have signed up to let the consultants analyse their HR practices as the first step in the 12-month programme.

Their owners and HR personnel will be trained on ways to build a company culture and improve employee engagement before being guided on implementing better HR practices to retain employees.

Owners have until October next year to sign up for the programme.

The early childhood sector employs about 16,000 people, and 4,000 more are needed by 2020.

"There're a lot of jobs available in this sector," noted Mr Teo.

Madam Yvonne Lau, 49, agrees. She consulted experts from Seed Institute, which trains early childhood educators, before embarking on a professional conversion programme for pre-school teachers this year.

"It helped in pre-empting the difficulties I would face and managing my expectations," she said.

For others, they can turn to the pool of career advisers.

It is very important that they have an understanding of the sector, said Mr Teo. "It's not just another job. It's really meaningful because they're going to influence young minds."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Two initiatives to retain staff in early childhood sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe