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Early childhood educators in Nova Scotia still without pensions as reduced fees come into play

Click to play video: 'Early childhood educators call for better workforce investments' Early childhood educators call for better workforce investments
Early childhood educator in Halifax says she's "cautiously optimistic" about the province's commitment to increasing wages and benefits. – Jan 17, 2022

Nova Scotia’s government plans to add more than 9,000 not-for-profit child care spaces to the sector over the next five years. A target the frontlines of early childhood education say need to come with major workforce investments in order to be successful.

“That is the main way that we are going to retain and recruit. If people know that they have to invest four years into a university education and then they come out and their benefits are so low – we’re losing people because of that, they can’t afford to take that track,” Margot Nickerson said, an Early Childhood Educator [ECE] in Halifax.

Read more: Nova Scotia, federal government, cut child care costs by 25 per cent this month

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Even with more than 20 years experience, Nickerson says she and the majority of ECEs in Nova Scotia don’t have pensions.

“I’m going to need to work until I physically cannot do it any longer. I’m just lucky that I really love what I’m doing,” she said.

The province recently laid out its plan to move towards reducing average child care fees in Nova Scotia by 50 per cent by the end of this year.

The plan is in partnership with the federal government and comes with clear targets for fee reductions.

Some parents advocating for sector improvements say that type of clarity needs to be included in investment plans to strengthen the frontlines.

“Early childhood education needs to be seen as a career, and an option for high school students. And, wages and benefits are how we allow them to know that they can be financially independent. So, I’m really hoping to have some more clarity and less vagueness on this workforce strategy,” Nikki Jamieson said, a parent and coordinator with Child Care Now Nova Scotia.

Read more: N.S. government seeks delay in housing rights hearing for people with disabilities

Part of the bilateral agreement between the provincial and federal governments includes a strategy to improve longstanding workforce concerns like wages.

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“I don’t have news to share today about any specific numbers but the framework will set that professional compensation structure, and we’re also looking at benefits as well,” Becky Druhan said, Nova Scotia’s Education and Early Childhood Development minister said, during the announcement on Jan. 14.

The strategy states a review of early childhood education compensation aims to be completed by the end of 2022.

An investment Jamieson says the province needs to move quicker on in order to retain and recruit the staff needed to meet their increased child care space targets.

“Early childhood educators need access to benefits and adequate compensation now,” Jamieson said.

Click to play video: 'NS Education Minister talks virtual learning' NS Education Minister talks virtual learning
NS Education Minister talks virtual learning – Jan 10, 2022

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