Parliament: Housewives and grandmothers among those wooed to join infantcare sector

A person holding a baby in a nursery at Mount Alvernia hospital.
A person holding a baby in a nursery at Mount Alvernia hospital.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Stay-at-home mothers and elderly women are being wooed to enter the infant care sector, with a new training scheme that focuses more on hands-on practice.

This would be "similar to an apprenticeship" and caters to people, "including more mature women, who are not inclined towards long classroom-based training", said the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) on Wednesday (March 8).

The Government hopes to train about 200 allied infant educarers (AIEs) in the next two to three years through this scheme, to be piloted from the end of this month. The scheme is part of ECDA's plans to attract 1,000 more infant educarers - who work with children aged two to 18 months - by 2020.

It is one of three initiatives announced on Wednesday to attract more infant educarers and develop careers of other professionals in the early childhood sector, which has been expanding rapidly in recent years and has a manpower crunch.

Explaining why the new training approach is being piloted, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Faishal Ibrahim said on Wednesday: "We understand that some people with interest, aptitude and competence to care for infants may be unable to join the sector, either because they do not want to attend classroom-based training, or they lack the appropriate academic records."

He said applicants of the AIE training programme will be considered based on their "aptitude and competency, rather than academic qualifications".

His comments came weeks after it was announced in the Budget speech last month that about 1,000 more infant care places will be made available by 2020 to meet growing demand. There are about 7,000 places now.

There is an existing course for infant educarers in which people can spend part of their working hours to attend training. On-the-job training takes up 40 per cent of the 300 training hours in that course, but will make up about 45 per cent of the 110 training hours in the AIE scheme. Participants of the AIE scheme will also have coaching from experienced mentors.

The AIE scheme will involve about 30 selected childcare centres run by anchor operators for now, as it is in the pilot phase, said ECDA. Applicants must be hired by these centres to be eligible. Anchor operators get government grants and priority in securing sites to set up centres but have to meet fee caps and quality criteria.

Prof Faishal also announced other initiatives to develop careers of other pre-school staff.

A new professional development programme for educarers - who work with children aged two months to four years - will be launched later this month. About 200 people are expected to benefit over the next four years.

The programme, which is in line with the national SkillsFuture initiative, will let educarers spend three years on courses and projects that will prepare them for more responsibilities at their workplace.

A similar programme for teachers who work with older children in pre-schools was rolled out last year.

Also, a new course to support experienced pre-school teachers in taking on teacher leadership roles will be launched, and those accepted can apply for a SkillsFuture study grant of $5,000. More details of the Advanced Diploma in Early Childhood Teaching and Learning progamme will be given in the second quarter of the year.