Recruit, Retain, Upskill: Developing a Gold Standard Childcare Workforce

Guest blog from Crawford Knott, Managing Director at Hawk Training

With a general election looming just a week away at the time of writing, early years features highly in the manifestos of all the main political parties, whether it’s pledges to guarantee 30 hours of funding per week for children from the age of 9 months, to opening 1000 new Sure Start centres.

As identified in Ceeda’s recent annual report, quality and capacity, financial sustainability and workforce challenges are all impacting the sector, this was borne out by live surveys conducted with the audience throughout the day. Against this background, November saw Hawk Training and CACHE host a joint event at London’s Crowne Plaza Hotel with the theme Recruit, Retain, Upskill. The aim of the event was to bring the early years sector together to address common challenges, share best practice, network and get new ideas on recruiting and retaining the best talent to develop a gold standard childcare workforce.

As an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ training provider, Hawk Training supports almost 2000 learners on apprenticeship programmes, the largest single group being those working in the early years sector. We work in close partnership with CACHE to support the end-point assessment of apprentices on the Level 3 Early Years Educator programme. 

Hawk’s Managing Director, Crawford Knott, kicked off proceedings and was followed by CACHE Director, Julie Hyde, who provided an insight into the range of programmes and services available to early years employers and staff, including the new early years T Levels which start in September 2020.

John Warren, from John Warren Consultancy, gave an engaging and often amusing insight into finding and retaining the best childcare talent. John shared his own experiences of the sector, gained from many years of hosting network events, to highlight how to find the right staff for your nursery. He emphasised the need to match the person to the job and not to be too fixated on CVs, the importance of social media and understanding your local market, to having nursery managers on board to ensure candidates can meet the people they could end up working with and form a relationship from the outset.

A panel discussion as part of the afternoon sessions saw Jo Verrill (Ceeda), Julie Hyde (CACHE), Ruth Pimentel (Kindred Nurseries) and John Warren taking questions from the floor and discussing everything from Brexit to forging partnerships with education providers and attracting more men into the early years workforce. 

June O’Sullivan of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) delivered a fantastic closing speech, giving an in-depth insight into successful, innovative strategies for recruitment and retention, and how to deliver high-quality childcare. She covered everything from recruiting childcare professionals from Spain, having a multi-generational workforce (including semi-retired, part-time workers who really enhance the environment with their experience) to hiring a drag queen to add a unique theatrical aspect to storytelling for children!

Delegate feedback from the event was extremely positive with delegates saying that it had made them think about their local reputation in the job market and provided useful tips for revamping their recruitment to include social media and despite Brexit, even looking at hiring staff from abroad. We will certainly look to build on the momentum gathered from the event to support the sector with similar events in future and lobby within Government and the wider sector.