Clark Graham, Early Years Workforce Development Coordinator, tells us how the recruitment of new apprentices is helping Fife Council get ready for the increase in funded early learning and childcare hours in 2020.
How is Fife Council getting ready for 2020?
To meet the increased hours entitlement we estimate that by 2020 we’ll need an extra 400-450 early years officers in post and had to think carefully about how we were going to address this. Fife College offer a successful HNC in Childhood Practice programme and the council has supported a number of modern apprenticeships each year but clearly these numbers wouldn’t be enough so we took a sideways look at our apprenticeship scheme.
We decided to run our own apprenticeship programme to recruit a number of apprentices and also look at addressing diversity issues to attract people from different backgrounds. This will help us bring people from a more diverse range of backgrounds into the profession. We also identified the need to build our own capacity and decided we should deliver the SVQ in-house through our Workforce Development Team.
How did your recruitment go?
After our first round of adverts we had about 500 applicants and took 150 people to a skills assessment. This consisted of a group skills test to review how they interacted with each other to solve problems. They also sat a paper based assessment for literacy and numeracy to make sure their skills and understanding were still operating at National 5 level.
We had a wide spectrum of people applying from a range of backgrounds. We’re also focused on recruiting men into the workforce so we used a male early years officer working with children to front our campaign.
We recruited 24 apprentices and also managed to support an additional 10 individuals through our Modern Apprenticeship scheme who all started work after the October holidays.
How are you supporting the new apprentices?
They are supported by our in-house team who are all SVQ assessors. As we are running the SVQ workshops ourselves the content can have a ‘Fife’ perspective. This supports the Fife approach to child-centred learning.
We make sure the apprentices have five hours of protected time each week to complete their SVQ folio work or other professional development.
We anticipate many of the apprentices will gain their SVQ3 fairly quickly and will want to continue working in Fife as early years officers so they’ll be able to apply for posts as soon as they qualify. They will also be able to continue in their apprenticeship for the full 23 months if they wish.
How will it help the early years service in Fife?
The real benefit is that we are able to take on more people and can build capacity more quickly. The SVQ assessors delivering workshops have experience of working in our early years settings so have a sound understanding of our child-centred approaches to learning.
The training is bespoke so we are able to build in things we expect to be mandatory for all early years officers in Fife, such as approaches to developing positive attachments and language development in young children.
There are also now almost 70 early years settings being supported by an apprentice.
What are your plans for the future?
We have already recruited a further 27 apprentices who will start after the Christmas break and we are hoping to develop it as a rolling programme, recruiting another 25 after summer. This will be in addition to the Modern Apprenticeship Programme funded through Workforce Youth Investment.
We are also supporting secondary school students who might be interested in becoming apprentices by running the Social Services (Children and Young People) Foundation Apprenticeship culminating in the group award of SVQ2 in five schools.
We are also starting a trial with childminders who wish to build their own capacity by engaging in the SVQ3 programme and will support them with evening workshops so come 2020 parents can have a wider range of childcare providers to choose from.