When the Manitoba government announced they would bring $10-per-day child-care to the province, most caregivers breathed a sigh of relief knowing they could afford quality care for their children.
Yet, the announcement made some child-care centres weary because they didn’t have the manpower to accommodate an influx of children.
Lynda Raible had to close the waitlist for Earl Grey Children’s Centre because the demand was too high for the employees she had.
“We don’t want to give false hope to our parents who are putting their names on these mega waiting lists to know that they’re not going to get a space this year,” Raible, who also serves as president of the Manitoba Child Care Association, said.
“We can build all the spaces we want, if we don’t have trained, qualified early childhood educators to fill those spaces, those spaces stay empty.”
The province is currently short 1,000 ECEs, Raible said.
Galina Sokolosky gets near-daily phone calls from hopeful parents searching for a spot at Norwood Nursery School, which she has to turn down because there’s over 100 parents already waiting for an open place.
“It’s going to take them years and years,” she said.
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Susan Prentice, a University of Manitoba sociology professor, said the government has their work cut out for them should they try to meet the increased demand seen in recent years, particularly after child-care was cut down in price.
“There’s a licensed childcare space for fewer than one in five children who might need or want to use it, so we have a big growth job ahead of us,” Prentice said.
With the province’s deal with Ottawa to open 23,000 new spaces in the next few years Prentice said the province will need 4,000 more ECEs which will only be doable with better funding and pay for caretakers, as retention continues to be an issue.
Research suggests ECEs should be making at least $30 per hour, even more if they have specialized qualifications. The average Manitoba wage falls nearly $10 short of that.
“Too many staff have to have a second job in order to make things work, and although most of them will tell you they love the work, they can’t afford to stay in the field,” Prentice said.
Raible agrees, adding the profession needs to be more attractive to retain workers.
“We do it because we love what we do, but loving what we do doesn’t pay the bills,” Raible said.
— with files from Rosanna Hempel
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