ʔakisq̓nuk-based child care provides quality service by supporting its educators
Little Badger Early Learning in ʔakisq̓nuk First Nation has had a substantial waitlist for as long as Carrie Rickards has worked there, and it’s still growing steadily. The centre is responding with positive steps to ensure it has the staff it needs.
In 2014, Rickards became General Manager of the Eva Joseph Learning and Cultural Society, which runs the early learning centre. When she started, she was surprised to find that a shortage of Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) was a widespread issue for ʔakisq̓nuk, Windermere and the surrounding area—and broadly throughout the province.
“My eyes were really opened. I understand the need for a safe, caring and loving place for children to go to every day,” says Rickards. “It’s heartbreaking because there are so many parents that still can’t work full time due to lack of child care.”
One of the biggest challenges is the shortage of eligible ECEs. “Non-profits have to keep the fees low—low enough for people to afford to be able to send their children.” But that means the wages may not be enough to recruit and retain trained Early Childhood Educators.
To improve this situation, without putting the burden on families, Little Badgers has applied for and received wage subsidies for its ECEs. The subsidies are provided by Columbia Basin Trust and the Province of BC. This improves ECE wages to make it more sustainable for ECEs to enter and stay in their chosen field. In turn, child care providers have a better chance to keep the ECEs they have, plus recruit new staff.
Little Badger is also enhancing its workforce so it can increase its capacity for more children, which help with the waitlist, too. Two employees are receiving the Trust’s training wage, which provides ECEs and ECE Assistants with a regular hourly wage they can count on while completing or upgrading their qualifications so they can support additional children.
Ashley Killin has been with the centre for three years and received the training wage during her last semester of school, during which she continued to work.
“It made things a lot less stressful when I needed to take extra time off for school, without worrying about financially being in trouble,” says Killin. “It definitely took a lot of pressure off and made it possible for me to get the additional training.”
Rickards says that “the value of good Early Childhood Educators is priceless. You’re influencing children at their earliest years, setting them up for the future. So every little bit, like the training wage and the wage enhancements, is one more step toward making things better.”