Hands-on training focus for infant 'educarers'

Helping to bathe children is not an unfamiliar task for Ms Nurshahirah Sasman, 22, who joined the pre- school sector last year and works at PCF Sparkletots Preschool.

But after going through a new scheme that trains people to work with infant-care staff to look after their charges, she now goes through a mental checklist when bathing children, ensuring the water temperature is suitable and the child is near her to prevent falls, for instance.

The scheme, which trains people to be allied infant "educarers" (AIEs), who work with children aged two months to 18 months, and focuses more on hands-on practice, is part of the Early Childhood Development Agency's (ECDA) plans to attract 1,000 more infant educarers by 2020.

There are about 1,400 infant educarers now, and the Government hopes to train about 200 more in the next two to three years. Ms Nurshahirah is part of the first batch of about 30 AIE trainees.

The scheme, which began in March, caters to people with the competency to work with infants but are not inclined towards long classroom-based training or do not have the academic prerequisites to join the sector. Among those who have signed up, about 60 per cent of them are in their 30s to 50s.

Ms Nurshahirah said of the training: "I can apply what I have learnt, and I am more confident when taking care of infants in the centre."

On-the-job training takes up 45 per cent of the AIE course's 110 training hours. By contrast, an existing course for infant educarers runs for 300 hours, of which 40 per cent is spent on on-the-job training.

Ms Joey Lam, head of human resources at NTUC First Campus, said people are usually more interested in childcare than infant care.

"There is not enough recognition that infant care is not just a diapering job. Infant-care staff also build relationships with the children, looking at their developmental needs and milestones," she said.

On the take-up rate for the course, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday: "We still have some way to go, but this is a new scheme and many people are not familiar with it."

He said he believes more people will sign up when there is greater awareness of the scheme.

Mr Tan was speaking on the sidelines of a career fair for the pre- school sector. The event at Waterway Point mall in Punggol ends tomorrow, and accompanies a new "e-career fair" launched by ECDA and the Employment and Employability Institute.

The next run of the AIE course starts on Sept 4. Those interested can inquire at the career fair. Those unable to attend the fair in person can access an online career fair at www.e2i.com.sg/ecce.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Hands-on training focus for infant 'educarers''. Print Edition | Subscribe