Many people think that taking care of infants or toddlers is no more than making sure that they have slept or eaten.
But a programme launched yesterday for pre-school staff who work with children aged two months to three years hopes to change such perceptions.
The Place-and-Train programme will teach the skills necessary to support a young child's learning, including the planning and execution of age-appropriate activities and care-giving practices.
It aims to equip new hires with the necessary qualifications and is in line with SkillsFuture, a national effort to integrate education, training and career progression. There is a similar programme for pre-school staff who teach older children.
Speaking about the programme on the sidelines of the Early Childhood Recruitment Fair, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said: "In the past, they had to be trained before they could come in, but now we're going to... place them in a job, and they can earn a salary even as they're being trained.
"I hope, in particular, that mid-career jobseekers and back-to-work women will consider taking up this programme to become early childhood professionals to nurture and care for our young ones."
Trainees in the new programme launched by the Early Childhood Development Agency and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) will attend classes for part of the week and spend the rest of the time at their workplace.
This allows them to apply newly- acquired knowledge on the job. They will get Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications certification upon completing the programme, which lasts up to 10 months.
WDA provides the pre-school operator with salary support at 70 per cent of the basic monthly pay (capped at $1,400) and a course fee grant of up to 90 per cent for each trainee. The operator will co-fund the remainder.
Currently, about one in five of the pre-school sector's 14,000 staff works with children aged up to three years.
Ms Geraldine Lee, chief human resource officer at NTUC First Campus, said some are reluctant to care for young children as they see it as merely providing "routine care", checking if the children have eaten or slept, for instance.
"Staff who work with children aged up to three years potentially can be specialists in this niche area," she said, adding that they learn strategies that stimulate a child's learning, such as placing a mirror to encourage a child to turn to his side.