SINGAPORE - More than 1,900 jobs are on offer in the early childhood sector, with eight in 10 for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
They make up the bulk - 98 per cent - of the 1,940 jobs, traineeship and attachment openings available as at the end of September, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its weekly jobs situation report on Monday (Nov 2).
The 1,620 PMET jobs include positions for pre-school teachers, centre leaders and childcare services managers. Another 290 jobs available are for non-PMET roles.
Apart from jobs, there are about 30 company-hosted traineeships and attachments available.
Speaking at a virtual media conference, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said: “These openings are mostly jobs, as employers are confident that they have vacancies to fill.”
Her ministry disclosed that more than 570 people were placed in jobs, traineeships and attachments positions in the sector between April and mid-October through the help of Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the National Trades Union Congress' Employment and Employability Institute. This is on top of direct recruitment by the operators themselves.
With more dual-income families and working grandparents, as well as greater emphasis placed on the importance of the early years for child development, pre-school enrolment is expected to rise, driving the sector's labour demand, said MOM.
Currently, there are about 21,000 certified educators in the early childhood sector here, up by more than 30 per cent from 2016. Demand is expected to grow as pre-school places are set to rise to more than 200,000 by 2023.
There are three main career tracks under the skills framework developed by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), SkillsFuture Singapore and WSG together with early-childhood stakeholders.
Educators under the leader track, who will take on centre or teacher leadership positions in both kindergartens and childcare centres, will earn between $3,100 and $7,600.
Those on the teacher track, who will work with children between four and six years old, can earn $2,200 to $3,550. Educators on the educarer track, who work with children aged two months to four years, earn between $1,800 and $3,150.
Job seekers who wish to join the sector as educators must attain either an early childhood certificate or diploma offered by the National Institute of Early Childhood Development, or programmes accredited by the ECDA and conducted by private training agencies.
A certified early childhood course duration ranges between four months and 2½ years for mid-career job seekers.
Those looking to make a mid-career switch to the sector may do so through the professional conversion programme (PCP) for pre-school teachers and the place-and-train programme for educarers, which will equip them with the necessary skills and qualifications, said MOM. They may then register with ECDA as qualified pre-school teachers or certified educarers, and work in ECDA-licensed childcare centres and kindergartens respectively.
Noting that about three out of four people in the early childhood scene have come from other sectors, Mrs Teo said: “Employers in early childhood appreciate jobseekers transitioning from other sectors, as they bring with them transferable skills.”
She added that jobseekers from the hospitality and retail sectors, which have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, are strong candidates because of their good service-oriented skills. But she stressed that they must also have a passion for working with children.
Besides the specialised roles that require job seekers to meet prerequisites such as having an early childhood certificate or diploma, there are also ancillary roles that job seekers can take on, such as in the areas of marketing, human resources (HR), finance and administration.
These roles would still provide job seekers with a deeper insight into the sector, further paving their entry into it, should they wish to embark on the educator or educarer pathway, said MOM.
"These roles also provide both industry-relevant skills and soft skills that can boost their chances of landing a job across other sectors."
To attract and retain talent, the early childhood sector has worked with WSG to develop and roll out a 12-month Progressive HR Practices Early Adopter Programme, or Project JOY.
Since November 2016, the programme has helped early childhood operators in shaping the early childhood sector as one with attractive career pathways for new entrants and existing talents.
"Having more experienced and trained employees in the sector would also raise the quality of care and education for the next generation," said MOM.
Under the programme, operators can apply for subsidies to undergo training in areas such as leadership communication, employee engagement, culture building and HR practices. HR personnel can also attend programmes that can help them better plan and develop training road maps to upskill their early childhood professionals and plug any skill gaps.
To date, more than 135 operators, including Cherie Hearts, Skool4kidz, Learning Vision and Kidz Meadow, have participated in the programme, benefiting over 8,800 employees - or about 30 per cent of the early childhood workforce.
Mrs Teo said that such an initiative is important, "because the people who have invested their time in this sector do want to continue to grow, and there is always new knowledge to be gained about how we can help children develop their potential more effectively".
Speaking at the same press briefing, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said the sector has been "very resilient" in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and is still growing and employing.
The ECDA has been working closely with operators to accelerate hiring plans and place affected employees from sectors hard hit by the pandemic, including stepping up efforts to reach out and place mid-career job seekers through career conversion programmes.
At the same time, the agency has been working with operators to provide about 500 short-term safe management assistant positions to implement safe management measures in pre-schools. Those found to be suitable for permanent roles can also be placed on PCPs, where they undergo skills conversion to move into the sector.
Speaking at the same press briefing, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said the sector has been “very resilient” in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, and is still growing and recruiting preschool teachers.
“Attrition is very low right now, and it is also a very rewarding sector for our citizens as well as those who are looking for a job to get into,” he added.