Victoria University is helping to ease a shortage of early childhood teachers in regional and rural Victoria through an innovative partnership that encourages aspiring teachers in hard-to-staff areas to be part of the solution.
VU has joined forces with Australia’s largest early learning provider, Goodstart, and the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET) to offer supported work placements in high-demand areas that have a shortage of early childhood teachers, such as Mildura, Bendigo, Traralgon and Ballarat.
Students in VU’s new one-year online postgraduate program, the Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education, and its long-established Bachelor of Early Childhood Education, can now choose to spend 25 days of their required 60-day minimum work placement at a regional or rural Goodstart centre.
The DET-funded Early Childhood Professional Practice Partnership program, or ECP3, is designed to provide high-quality placements, coaching and visits from VU lecturers, mentoring from Goodstart educators, funding for travel and accommodation during the placement, and an orientation program to help students build relationships and fit into life in the community.
After students successfully complete the placement and receive their qualification from the Victorian Institute of Teaching, they are guaranteed a job with Goodstart in the same region.
The program is designed to appeal to regional residents looking for jobs close to home, or city students considering a ‘tree change’ to a smaller community.
VU early childhood education lecturer Sarah Jobson said the opportunity to work in a rewarding profession in regional or rural Victoria has never been better.
"Demand for early childhood teachers is growing, and some areas are very hard to fill with qualified staff. This program will help fill that gap so we give every child the very best start, no matter where they are."
Starting this year, the already strong demand for qualified early childhood teachers in regional areas is set to expand further as the Victorian Government rolls out its almost $5 billion, decade-long program to fund 15 hours a week of three-year-old kindergarten, on top of its existing funding of four-year-old kinder.
This means all Victorian children are now eligible for an extra year of funded kindergarten – a policy that supports the position of VU’s education policy think tank Mitchell Institute that two years of early education is better than one to strengthen the cognitive, social and emotional development of young children.
The added year of funded kinder is expected to create about 6000 extra jobs in Victoria – 4000 as kindergarten teachers and 2000 as early childhood educators.
James Atherton, 29, from Drouin, about 90 kilometres west of Melbourne, will begin VU’s Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education in February. As one of very few men choosing a career in this field, he is looking forward to the chance to become a unique role model for young children.
"A drawcard for me in taking the course is making a difference to children in a regional area.