Tuesday, 2 August 2022
Questions without Notice
Early Childhood Education
My question is to the Minister for Early Childhood Education and Minister for Youth. With around 7,000 vacancies in the early childhood education sector, I ask the minister: how many workers will be needed under Labor's universal childcare policy?
I thank the member for Moncrieff for her question. I also take this opportunity to congratulate the member for Moncrieff on being appointed as the opposition shadow spokesperson on this issue and thank her for her interest in early childhood education.
We know that more needs to be done to develop and recognise the workforce. We recognise that there are serious workforce issues. As I mentioned in my last response, I and my Labor colleagues met earlier today with members from the early childhood education sector, and primarily a lot of the issues that they were raising were around workforce issues. We recognise that there is a shortage in the workforce and the workforce needed now to fill in the vacancies for early childhood education. This shortage is not just in the workforce itself; it may interest the member to know that the retention rates for early childhood educators in certificate III and in diploma are also very low and have reduced quite significantly over the last two years. But even before COVID those retention rates were very low.
To go to the member's question—before the Deputy Leader of the Opposition stands up to interject—about workforce requirements: the figures that were published earlier this week that quote, I think, around 6½ thousand vacancies are correct, and we do anticipate that those vacancies will increase not just as a result of a Labor government making it more affordable and more accessible for children to access early childhood education—
In response to what we're doing about the workforce issues that have persisted for many years, including for the last nine years in which the previous government resided over these issues in the workforce, there are a number of things that we're doing. As I mentioned in my previous answer, the Minister for Education and I are conducting a rigorous agenda of consultation with the sector. We have been consulting with the sector and continue to consult with the sector in the lead-up to the Jobs and Skills Summit. But there are a number of other Labor government policies that are going to help that issue as well—we've got the fee-free TAFE policy and we've got free education university places—that we know will help to resolve some of those issues in the workforce sector.
I'm not underestimating the challenge ahead of us in this, and I assure the member for Moncrieff that we have not underestimated the challenge ahead of us in addressing these workforce issues. I will say that they are not just in the early childhood education sector but across the care sector generally. I can also assure those opposite that it is only a Labor government that's going to do something about it.