Welcome! In Australia, the Child Care industry is booming and with projected job growth at 26% by the year 2020, more and more people are choosing to become qualified and accredited to work with children. If you want to learn how to become a child care worker (including how to get qualified and what it takes to succeed), then you’re in the right place.
The Australian child care industry is worth $12 billion annually, as of January 2018 (ABS Stats) and since many modern households now have two working parents, the demand for qualified child care workers is only going to continue to rise. In fact, right now there are approximately 1.6 million children who regularly attend child care in Australia – and this isn’t even accounting for those children who only attend occasionally! Competition for child care jobs is high, but not unreasonable… there are approximately 170,000 child care workers in Australia right now so whilst you certainly won’t be alone in this field, you can rest assured knowing that demand will always be there and for child care workers who go the extra mile to truly connect with the children they care for and enrich their educational journeys… they’ll go far in their careers!
If you choose to become a qualified child care worker in Australia, your chances of getting a job are high. There are also many childcare workers of varying ages… some enter the industry straight after school, others make a career change and others become child care workers later in life after their kids have left home and their grandkids have given them a new push to help shape the next generation. This is exciting, because it means that the industry is accessible to child care workers of all ages – keeping the industry diverse, fair and regulated.
You might be wondering what exactly a child care worker does (apart from laugh, play and have fun all day!)
Although being a child care worker is certainly a fun job, it also carries very serious responsibilities and can be physically as well as mentally tough!
Child care (also known as day care or child minding) involves caring for and supervising children of all ages, though usually the children are between the ages of 0-12. As a childcare worker, your responsibilities will lie with caring for the children within the facilities of a child care centre. You’ll also be responsible for working with families and communities, helping you to provide the best level of care possible for every individual child and their unique family situation, developmental needs and learning pace. A portion of your job will also be to help create the child care programs at your centre – this is supervised by a senior child care worker at each centre, and they will also make sure that all programs are age appropriate, meet key learning and social outcomes and are on-par with the high standards of Australian child care programs.
In Australia, child care workers are also commonly referred to as ‘Early Childhood Educators’. There are also sub-groups of Early Childhood Educators/Child Care Workers, such as Out-of-School Service Workers (OOSSWs). OOSSWs provide care and developmental activities for children aged 5-12 after school hours and during vacation hours.
Working in child care is an exciting career path that will keep you mentally stimulated and physically active… when you work with kids, no two days are ever alike! Whilst you’ll carry the responsibility of shaping young children as they learn about the world around them, you’ll also reap immense emotional rewards in knowing that you get to be part of their journeys. A professional Child Care Worker will perform a range of daily duties, such as:
- Teaching social and core developmental skills. The child care facility is often one of the first places that many children will start to have regular social contact with peers. Not all children have the benefit of a good social education in the home environment and sadly, many children aren’t taught good manners or social values, so you’ll need to teach them how to communicate, play, share and be a good friend to other children.When it comes to instilling core developmental skills, you’ll be primarily teaching through play. This means establishing a routine of play activities to help children learn and develop, including puzzles, games, toys & other materials to help teach concepts such as maths, language, cause and effect, social skills and narrative skills. Additionally, this also involves providing children with individual time each day to explore their own interests that foster their budding identities.
- Supervising the children’s safety. As a Childcare Worker, your number one priority is always to keep the children in your care healthy, safe and away from harm! This means you’ll need to be an eagle eye, always on the look out for safety hazards and able to keep track of all the children in your care at once. You’ll also need to spot social hazards such as bullying. Many children have allergies or food intolerances, so you’ll need to keep careful control over this (and in the case where one child has a severe allergy, e.g. to peanuts, you’ll need to make sure that everyone else’s food doesn’t pose a risk to that child either).This also involves keeping a watchful eye on the children’s hygiene! Small children and babies need lots of help to keep themselves clean, and they need to be taught personal hygiene. This is also the responsibility of the parents, but you’ll need to help reinforce these lessons! This includes things like reminding children to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating, teaching them how to blow their own nose, reminding them to cover their mouth when they cough & sneeze etc.
- Preparing meals. You and your colleagues will be preparing and serving food to the children in your care at mealtimes – this means establishing a meal routine, keeping healthy portion sizes and a range of healthy foods for the children as well as keeping all food preparation areas clean and sanitary. Again, you’ll need to pay special attention to any special dietary needs or allergies that any children may have, so you’ll be liaising with parents on food.
- Meeting with parents and family members. It’s important to keep regular communication with a child’s core family members – parents will naturally want to keep up to date with what their children are learning, their behaviour and their developmental progress. Understandably, many parents can first be apprehensive about leaving their children with strangers for the first time so you’ll need to be compassionate, professional and ease their worry. In many instances, child care workers will spot issues or problems in children that the parents haven’t yet noticed, so you must ensure to do your due diligence and keep parents in the loop at all times! It’s up to you – alongside the family -to ensure that the children in your care are happy and healthy.
On top of all this, and in every activity you undertake as a childcare worker, you will also be caring and nurturing. It is a crucial responsibility that you create a safe, nurturing, supportive environment that allows children to feel comfortable. You’ll often need to be patient and you’ll also have to be willing to step in when there is a problem. As a childcare worker, you must never lose your temper so it’s imperative that you have strong stress coping mechanisms and an ability to be patient. You’ll also need to be proficient in giving children both praise/positive reinforcement and positive discipline.
Children are full of energy, so you’ll need good physical fitness to keep up with them. You’ll also be required to sometimes lift or carry children, so you must be able to handle this. You must be observant and stay alert all day, be able to effectively work in a team with great communication and above all, you must be willing to accept the great responsibility for caring for children.
What training do I need?
The minimum qualification required to become a Child Care Worker in Australia is the Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care, which is designed to develop the skills that you’ll need to work with children aged 0-5 years in long day care facilities.
You will then build on this with a Certificate IV in School Age Education and Care, which will develop the skills you need to care for children aged 5-12 after school hours and during vacation periods.
Many people wonder why the two aren’t rolled into a single certificate, however as 0-5 and 5-12 year olds have vastly different developmental needs, there is simply too much content to knock it all out in one certificate – instead, this is upgraded to a diploma (more on this below). Additionally, some people choose to only obtain a Certificate III and only work with 0-5 year olds. This is a perfectly valid choice however it is important to remember that you will increase your chances of finding work and being a desirable job candidate the greater experience that you have. Most child care centres cater for 0-12 year olds, so we recommend obtaining both your Cert III and Cert IV to give you the best chance.
You may also choose to follow this with a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care, which will help you develop skills to work as a group leader, child care centre manager or child development worker. This is a great course for those thinking long-term or those who wish to establish a clear path for progressing their career as a Child Care Worker. This qualification also includes the skills that you learn through a Cert III in Early Childhood Education and Care and Cert IV in School Age Education and Care… this means that if you’re committed and willing to enrol directly into a diploma, you can fast track your career without needing to first complete your Cert III or Cert IV.
Ready to become a fully qualified & professional Child Care Worker?
Now that you know that you have a passion to become a child care worker, you have an idea of what’s involved and you know what training is legally required of you… now it’s time to hit the ground running, get qualified and start your dream job as a Childcare Worker!
The idea of studying can be daunting but with something as important as caring for children, it’s important that every child care worker is qualified, professional and ready to handle any situation that comes their way. You’ll only get out what you put in, so if you’re truly committed to being an amazing child care worker that can bond with children and parents alike, make sure you take every opportunity that is presented to you during the course of your study.
During your study, you may be required to undertake supervised practical work experience – this is a fantastic testing ground to put your skills to the test and get a glimpse of a real day in the life of a child care worker.
Step One: Make sure that you have fully researched and are aware of all the factors involved before committing to a career as a Child Care Worker… this includes being aware of what child care workers earn, the highs and lows of the job and any financial aid that you may be entitled to while you’re studying.
Step Two: A Certificate III is the minimum course requirement, and it’s recommended that you at least build this with a Certificate IV. However a Diploma will put you in high demand as a child care worker and for those who are savvy and committed, you may wish to skip ahead straight to the Diploma!
Step Three: Put yourself out there! Once you’re qualified, hand out your resume and start looking for jobs. If you’re caring, passionate, well qualified and have a great personality, you have a high likelihood of finding a great job in this high-demand, immensely rewarding industry!