Day honours child care workers, early childhood educators

It was Child Care Worker and Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day on Thursday, a day to recognize early child care professionals who work with young children on a daily basis.

Officials at Discovery Early Learning & Care in Sudbury said the day is about acknowledging the hard work early childhood educators do, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They have stepped up, they’ve changed everything they’ve needed to do,” said Tracy Saarikoski, executive director.

"When we were closed, there was online learning happening, storytelling, songs, science experiments all happening with children and families to engage them at Discovery Early Learning & Care."

“It’s a lot of heart work and hard work,” she added.

For the past eight years, Nikita Lefebvre has been an educator at Discovery Early Learning & Care.

She said in spite of the pandemic and its challenges, she still looks forward to teaching young kids each day.

“Being able to teach them things like empathy and connection and to be able to move forward with those belonging and skills in their school life and in their adult life ... really does end up leaving a little bit extra special in the world,” said Lefebvre.

Educators said there are a shortage of ECE workers in Ontario as well as here in Sudbury. They said it’s led to some closures within the centres.

“We’ve had to close some programs and groups because we don’t have the staff to manage it,” said Saarikoski.

"So, on top of our regular ratios that’s legislated to us, we also have to abide by these 'cleaners and screeners.' Where do you find those extra humans to help support? We have a job posting that’s been out for probably a year and a half continuously."

Officials at Cambrian College said each year, the enrolment within the ECE program ranges anywhere from 150 to 200 students. The school offers an alternative program as a way to keep people in the field.

“It’s for people that are already working in childcare but don’t have their credentials,” said Janice Clarke with Cambrian College.

"We give them the opportunity in that program to stay working full time, but come to the college full time to get their credentials."

Licensed child care centres said they are always looking for registered early childhood educators and qualified support staff.