An Op-Ed by Suzan Gage, Guest columnist
We’re facing a severe shortage of childcare teachers. Here’s how you can help.
August 14, 2022
What were some of the first early learning experiences you remember? Maybe it was singing a nursery rhyme, counting building blocks, or showing your budding artistic flair with finger paint. Whatever it was, it was special — your introduction to education, lifelong learning, and relationships beyond your family.
About 17,000 children under the age of 5 live in Northwest Florida, and all of them deserve bright early learning experiences of their own. Unfortunately, many of them may face difficulties accessing early learning opportunities because our area faces a severe shortage of child care teachers.
How severe? Among parents with kids under the age of 5 in the seven-county region of Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties, nearly 3 in 4 say they’ve had difficulties arranging adequate early learning education opportunities for their child, due to a lack of available educators.
What is Kickstart Success?
To help address this shortage of child care teachers in the area, the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida (ELCNWF) recently launched a campaign — called Kickstart Success — centered on encouraging individuals to become child care teachers. By becoming a child care teacher, they can kickstart the future success of Northwest Florida’s children, as well as their own success in a gratifying and fulfilling career in early education.
Early education helps both children and the dedicated adults who teach them. Early learning is proven to help children lead successful lives — research has shown an annual 13% return on investment per child through better education, economic, health, and social outcomes for children who are enrolled in high-quality early childhood education programs.
Career is early education is attainable
Additionally, a career in early education is highly attainable through training and certifications. Child care teaching is a career like no other because of the clear and meaningful impact it has on children’s lives. It’s a child care teacher’s job to introduce kids to learning, set them up for educational and lifelong success, and be a positive influence in their lives. Nearly 9 in 10 parents in Northwest Florida say their child’s child care teacher made a positive impact on their future.
Having worked in early education for years now, I’ve seen firsthand the many benefits that early learning has had on kids and their teachers, as well as the harm this shortage has caused to children’s education, well-being, and development. I encourage anyone with a heart for children and an interest in a rewarding career to consider becoming a child care teacher.
You have the special opportunity to create awe and wonder for a child by introducing them to the magic of education. Don’t let a child in your area miss out on their first learning experiences, and don’t miss out on a meaningful career opportunity for yourself.
Suzan Gage is executive director at Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida, Inc. If you have an interest in becoming a child care teacher in Northwest Florida, visit kickstartsuccessfl.org.
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Early Learning Coalition launches recruitment campaign
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The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida (ELCNWF) last week announced the launch of Kickstart Success, a new campaign aimed at addressing the critical shortage of childcare teachers in the seven-county region of Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties.
The campaign is meant not only to highlight the need for childcare teachers in Northwest Florida, but also to underscore the importance of their role in a child’s lifelong learning journey. The campaign encourages Floridians to give both their career and children’s education a head start at the same time by becoming a childcare teacher.
As part of the Kickstart Success campaign, ELCNWF has launched compelling advertisements through social media, television streaming, and out-of-home opportunities in the geographic region. The advertisements direct viewers to a campaign landing page, kickstartsuccessfl.org, where interested parties can get connected with childcare centers.
According to a recent survey of registered voters within the seven-county region, about half of residents (48 percent) believe there is a critical need or shortage of childcare teachers in their home area. This is the case for 70 percent of those with children under the age of 5, the primary attendees at childcare centers.
The survey also found that this profession is highly valued by residents in the area. Nearly nine in 10 voters (88 percent) in the seven-county region say their child’s childcare teacher made a positive impact on their future. Additionally, nearly nine in 10 agreed that childcare teachers are integral to a child’s life and early development.
“Childcare teachers kickstart lifelong learning and success for children in Northwest Florida, and this career path also helps them kickstart their career in early education,” said Suzan Gage, executive director of ELCNWF. “That’s what this important campaign is all about – highlighting this meaningful profession to the community and ensuring that there are enough childcare teachers available to give local children the headstart on their education that they deserve.”
The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida works to provide Northwest Florida families access to high-quality childcare, supports to cover the costs of childcare, and other services and resources to ensure a child’s success in school and life.
The survey’s findings
Some of the key findings from a survey of 400 residents across the Northwest Florida region, conducted by The Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida:
- 4 in 10 (42 percent) of residents with children age 5 currently have a child enrolled in an early education program.
- Half (50 percent) of residents with children ages 5 through 17 report their child used to be in an early learning program.
- About half (48 percent) of respondents believe there is a critical need, or shortage, of early learning educators in the area they live.
- 70 percent of residents with children under age 5 believe there is a critical need, or shortage, of early learning educators in the area they live.
Asked whether there is a high demand for early childhood educators, 69 percent of total respondents agreed. Below is a breakdown of the counties your readers are from:
- 82 percent in Franklin County agreed.
- 72 percent in Gulf County agreed.
- 85 percent in Holmes County agreed.
- 75 percent in Washington County agreed.
Asked if there is a critical need, or shortage, of early learning educators in the area,
- 62 percent in Franklin County agreed.
- 67 percent in Gulf County agreed.
- 52 percent in Holmes County agreed.
- 50 percent in Washington County agreed.
Asked the degree to which respondents agreed with the statement early learning educators are integral to a child’s life and early development:
- 100 percent in Franklin County (net) agreed (responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’).
- 79 percent in Gulf County (net) agreed (responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’).
- 97 percent in Holmes County (net) agreed (responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’).
- 94 percent in Washington County (net) agreed (responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’).