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Williams Lake City Council to ask university to offer program regardless of enrollment numbers

Parents, grandparents, educators, and even children themselves attended Williams Lake City Council chambers as a delegation asked the support of Council to have an early childhood educator (ECE) program made available at the Williams Lake Thompson Rivers University (TRU) campus.

After a delegation by administrator of the Williams Lake and District Daycare Centre, Linda Bond and co-owner of Exploring the Puddle Early Learning Centre, Faren Lozier, Council agreed to support a link to their website to encourage enrollment in the ECE program and to further ask Business Liaison for the Williams Lake Hiring Initiative, Laurie Walters to assist in creating a publicity campaign.

Council also agreed to ask TRU to offer an ECE program regardless of enrollment figures.

“Encouraged absolutely,” Bond told MyCaribooNow. “I think the main thing we need is to have more people trained in this community, and it’s encouraging that they recognize that and already know it and are going to try to help us get that.”

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Bond says over the last few years centres have struggled to find substitutes for programs, and now just in the last few months have had to close spaces completely or are being threatened with the possibility of having to close spaces due to the lack of permanent staff.

“The bottom line is there are no qualified staff available in Williams Lake nor are educators willing to come and try a career in early childhood education in our community,” Bond told Council.

“The problem is retention, respect, and remuneration in the field. ECEs are very underpaid and in many cases undervalued. We are often considered babysitters leading to the problem of retention; how can we possibly attract others to the field if they are expected to work in this high-stress career essentially labeled babysitting with little pay?”

Bond added ECEs are facing wages as low as $15 in Williams Lake with many positions holding no benefits or any kind of pension. She said ECEs are required to take a one-year certification program and can obtain their diploma in two years with their degree after four.

“After obtaining these certifications, ECEs are required to continue mandatory professional development to keep their licenses. How do we attract students to take the required schooling if they come out after two to four years to make less than jobs that don’t require a certification, diploma or a degree,” Bond said noting managers are losing office and administrative time to be out on the floor with children.

Lozier told Council that they had met with Interim Associate Dean of Williams Lake TRU Campus, Bryan Daly who advised them that the ECE program has not worked in the past due to lack of interest.

“Because of this after the university’s months of contract work to bring in the program the low enrollment forced the closure of the program altogether,” Lozier said.

“This has left students with the only options of distant education leaving the community to finish their schooling or scrapping the ECE program altogether.”

Lozier said they came up with the idea with Daly of having skype classes allowing students in Williams Lake to skype into classes in Kamloops.

“Bryan is looking into this possibility but it comes with a lot of what-ifs as well. There also is potential for an early childhood education assistant program where students would attend one semester of classes and after receiving their certification they would be able to work on the floor under a certified ECE. This is great but it’s not always a good option for many centres and poses a lot of staffing limitations due to licensing regulations.”

Lozier added that strong start coordinators past and present are working with Dave Corbett of School District 27 to see a dual credit ECE course offered to high school students although not much movement has been seen on that front even though other school districts have successfully offered the ECE program as dual credit.

“Lack of quality childcare and early learning programs means that the families of the children wanting or needing childcare or early learning have had the option completely taken away from them,” Lozier said.

“Children are entering kindergarten without preschool experiences which we know to be very beneficial, the parents of our community are unable to return to our workforce and the entire community suffers when we don’t have enough people in the workforce. The childcare crisis is everyone’s problem.”

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