More people making mid-career switch to pre-school sector

Ms Dawn Chua (left), executive principal of My First Skool @ Toa Payoh, with Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo, on Sept 25, 2017. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

SINGAPORE - More people have been making a mid-career switch to become pre-school teachers. The enrolment in a programme for such mid-career entrants jumped 40 per cent last year from the year before, to hit almost 400 trainees.

Total enrolment has reached more than 2,300 since the scheme started in 2009.

These figures for the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Pre-School Teachers, offered by various government bodies, were revealed by Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo on Monday (Sept 25).

This comes amid growing manpower needs in the pre-school sector, which has about 16,000 educators and needs 4,000 more by 2020 to meet the rising demand for childcare services.

The annual training capacity for the PCP is 450. The programme lasts eight to 18 months and operates on a place-and-train basis, in which participants undergo training while working and earning a salary.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to a My First Skool childcare centre in Toa Payoh, Mrs Teo said enrolment in the programme has been "rising steadily", and this is likely due to greater awareness of career opportunities and improved career prospects in the pre-school sector.

"As far as employers are concerned, the funding support from the Government is also quite generous," she said. Participants' employers can get funding, for the duration of the programme, to cover 70 per cent of the participants' monthly pay, capped at $4,000.

The funding support increases to 90 per cent of the pay, capped at $6,000, for Singaporean participants aged 40 and above, or who have been jobless for six months or more. Grants to cover course fees are also available.

"In the past few years, the PCP has helped to meet about 20 per cent of the growing manpower needs in early childhood education. It can meet up to 25 per cent of the training capacity," added Mrs Teo. "If there is demand from both operators and Singaporeans who want to come into the sector, I think we have room to expand the training capacity."

Dr Kok Siat Yeow, deputy director for programmes at Seed Institute, one of the training providers for the PCP, said most participants are in their 20s to 40s, with close to three-quarters of them having a diploma as their highest qualification, and close to a quarter having a bachelor's or master's degree.

Ms Karina Anne Lee, 38, will complete the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Pre-School Teachers in March next year. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Ms Karina Anne Lee, 38, an assistant teacher at My First Skool @ Toa Payoh, joined the PCP in February, after a 17-year career in information technology.

She had wanted to join the pre-school sector previously, having been inspired by her mother who was a pre-school teacher then, but decided not to after family members told her that career prospects in the industry were limited.

In August last year, her company restructured its operations and she was offered a different job position, which she declined to take up.

Ms Lee then decided to explore her interest in the pre-school sector again. She also drew inspiration from the pre-school teachers who nurtured her three children, now aged four to eight.

She will complete the PCP in March next year. She said: "The place-and-train mode is very beneficial, because whatever I learn in class I can apply in the childcare centre. When the lecturers talk about why children react or behave in a certain way, I go back to the centre and I see the lessons coming alive."

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