Working with children is a career for life, with many vocational pathways paired with exceptional support and training options. It's one of the only jobs in the world that you can love, and it loves you back.
- The Welsh Government's Childcare, Play and Early Years Workforce Plan developed a careers advice service, a skills portal, work experience opportunities and a suite of qualifications to support childcare workers in Wales
- A fantastic team, flexible shift patterns and free uniforms and meals are often boasted as perks of the job in childcare settings
- If you work in a specialist setting or healthcare environment, you will work and learn alongside consultants and experts - plenty of opportunities to pick up skills outside of studying
Working in childcare in Wales is a benefit, purely because the Welsh Government is so committed to enhancing the sector in a variety of ways.
What is the Childcare, Play and Early Years Workforce Plan?
The Welsh Government's 10-year Childcare, Play and Early Years Workforce Plan, released in 2017, aims to deliver a skilled and dedicated workforce in a vital sector. You can read the full report here.
In short, the plan created three proposals which aimed to:
- Attract high-quality, new recruits to childcare
- Raise standards and skills of workers in childcare roles
- Invest in building capacity and capability
The proposal will aid childcare practitioners and managers, childminders, leaders and assistants of playgroups and out-of-school clubs and Flying Start practitioners.
In 2021, the midway point of the plan, the rewards of this goliath effort is evident in the quality of support available to would-be childcare workers.
Employers are awarded up to £4,000 for each apprentice they recruit*
*The Welsh Government employer incentive promises £4,000 for every apprentice recruited who are between 16-24 years old and up to £2,000 for every apprentice over the age of 25.
If you're not sure about which childcare career, or educational pathway, is the right one for you, Social Care Wales will give you as much information, guidance and advice as you need to get started.
It's placed to assist you if you're new to the industry, or if you’re a seasoned childcare worker weighing up a change. You'll start your career fully informed of the roadmap ahead, and what you need to achieve to be successful.
The service tells you about the different settings and job roles you could apply for. Plus, there are a host of resources and case studies from working childcare professionals, to set your expectations.
In the Childcare, Play and Early Years Workforce Plan, the Welsh Government said:
"We want to support managers of all settings to aspire to and reach Level 5. We will support the sector by developing appropriate progression routes to achieve these qualifications and to access structured training and career paths."
The new Children’s Care, Learning, Development and Play (CCPLD) childcare qualification came into being for this purpose. It is available from Levels 2 to 5, offering a clear progression route.
It also combines practices from both childcare and playwork, giving you pathways in both fields - in other words, you have lots of opportunities to transfer between specialisms.
Childcare workers are in high demand. According to the Office of National Statistics, there were eight million families with dependent children in the UK in 2019.
Childcare workers and settings are in demand because working families (or families with other responsibilities, like studying or caring) need childcare support.
There needs to be a continuous stream of new talent for employers to recruit.
Careers Wales expects that there will be 226 job openings for Nursery Nurses and related jobs in Wales until 2025. For Playworkers, it's more like 76. However, employers are being more cautious in 2021, shaking off a financial nervousness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They want to save for a rainy day, rather than spend on recruitment.
To combat this, the Welsh Government has put safeguards in place to make sure critical industries, like childcare continue to grow.
For example, a CCPLD apprenticeship at any level (subject to eligibility criteria) is fully funded, taking the financial burden off you or your employer. Plus, the Employer Incentive Scheme awards up to £4,000 for every apprentice they recruit.
These financial safety nets make taking on new staff an easy choice, enabling them to invest in their employee's development, which is another great benefit for childcare workers.
It takes a village to raise a child.
A team of adults must collaborate and share duties and responsibilities to ensure every child's needs are met, and that they flourish in the setting.
As the pathways within childcare are so varied, you will all bring different experiences and specialisms to the setting, to make the days lively, educational and interesting.
How many adults you'll have to bounce ideas off will depend on how many children are in the setting on any given day. The National Minimum Standards (NMS) dictates your staffing rota.
In a nursery setting, there must be:
- One adult to three children under 2 years old
- One adult to four children who are 2 years old
- One adult to eight children aged 3 to 7 years old.
The NMS outlines that for full-time day care there must be one adult to eight children for children aged 3 to 7 years. But that was relaxed in 2021 to accommodate social distancing, so now it's one adult to ten children.
The NMS ratio of one adult to ten children aged 8 to 12 years to be relaxed to allow one adult to care for up to 12 children.
According to the Money Advice Service , the average cost of childcare in the UK is £14,000 a year. A full-time experienced nursery worker, according to Careers Wales, can expect to earn £17,500.
Some childcare settings will offer subsidised care for your children, but specifically how much that benefit is worth will be down to your employer.
Most childcare settings operate a staffing rota, and in some cases, you can choose the shift you want to work. Later starts, earlier finishes, nights, or days, are up for discussion.
You can also work as a part-time or full-time childcare worker. The role isn't remote, and unlikely to offer flexitime because you will rarely work independently from the children.
If you are a childminder, or a nursery manager, or a childcare business owner, it's a chance to be your own boss too.
Childcare worker roles, regardless of their seniority, setting, or speciality are legally entitled to a salary, pension, and 28 days of paid holiday (pro-rata if you're part-time). So, those aren’t benefits, they’re just your rights as a worker in the UK.
Lots of childcare settings offer weekly rather than monthly paydays. If you're working different shifts each week and paid by the hour, it's easier to keep track of what you've earned.
Some nursery settings will offer performance-related pay. That means, if you dedicate yourself to becoming a Level 5 CCPLD, you can expect to command a higher salary too.
There could also be a bonus if you take no sick leave, and you may also be entitled to private medical care. If you do become unwell, you will be able to access the treatment you need quickly, get well and get back to work.
Plus, if you pick up extra shifts over bank holidays, like Christmas Day, you may be eligible for double time.
If you're a childcare worker in a healthcare setting, you will be working alongside consultants and specialist medical providers.
It's a unique opportunity to learn on the job from people at the top of their field.
If your setting has a mandatory uniform policy, embroidered with the business logo in brand colours, you won't need to buy it yourself. A childcare provider will typically order it from a preferred supplier on your behalf. You won't need to budget for workwear.
If your setting offers the children meals as part of the childcare arrangement, you might be entitled to free breakfast, lunch and dinner as part of the company benefits.
If you work in a school, breakfast or after school club, or a nursery setting, they typically operate between the hours of 6:30am-7pm weekdays and are closed at the weekends.
That won't be the same for healthcare settings, however.
Unlike so many other professions, childcare gets you out and about.
There is so much to explore in the world outdoors, so if you find a childcare setting that boasts a forest or beach school, a veg patch, or chicken coop, you're onto a good thing.
You may also be charged with wrap around care and venture out to collect the kids from school. You'll get to hear all about their day!
The rewarding nature of childcare is the biggest hook of all. At the heart of every childcare career is a passion for a child's wellbeing and development.
You are a consistent presence and always positive influence on a child's life, showing them how to build friendships and relationships with adults and children.
You bear responsibility for their intellectual and emotional development. You'll show them how to learn through play, teach them critical skills before they get to school and have special time one-on-one to get to know them.
In some cases you will see a child grow from a baby into a young person, an honour you share exclusively with their families.
If that's what gets you out of bed in the morning and motivates you to do a good job and progress, you will find joy in a childcare vocation.
The numerous settings and job roles, and the transferability between qualifications, means you have a clear career path, plus lots of opportunities to side-step into a different setting or position.