AMHERST – Modern-day humans continue have babies and, therefore, continue to need early childhood educators.
“Many families have two parents working, so someone needs to look after their children,” said Wendy Siddall, faculty of the School of Health and Human Services at the Nova Scotia Community College, Cumberland Campus, in Springhill.
Siddall has seen hundreds of licensed Early Childhood Educators graduate from her class over the last decade, and those ECE’s have educated thousands of children in Cumberland County and elsewhere.
Looking forward to the next decade, NSCC recently held an open house in Springhill for the public and prospective students.
Connie Fisher, academic chair in the Department of Health and Human Services, attended the open house.
“It’s a night to share what we offer, what services are here and what employment opportunities there are in the region,” said Fisher.
Topics covered by Fisher and Siddall included cooperation with universities, a $10,000 debt reduction credit, and a new ECE job prospect within the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Fisher talked about the Two-Plus-Two program, which is an articulation agreement between NSCC and several universities. The agreement allows students to seek an education diploma by attending the NSCC for the first two years, and then transferring to a university.
“We work with the universities to make sure the curriculum matches up so students have the same outcomes over the course of the four years,” said Fisher. “Students are able to move right into the third year of a university program with, not only the course outcomes, but also 540 hours of applied learning in field.”
For example, students with an ECE diploma from NSCC can transfer to Mount Saint Vincent University and study towards a bachelor degree in Child & Youth Study.
Fisher says the success rate of students who have chosen this path is phenomenal, and that cost, compared to attending four years of university, is ‘staggering.’
“Financially, for parents, it’s a tremendous idea in terms of savings,” said Fisher.
Jordanna Beal, a current Cumberland Campus ECE student, was at the open house. She chose the Two-Plus-Two route and will attend university this September.
“I applied to four other places but in the end I chose to come here because it’s cost efficient, and you get valuable work experience and valuable hands-on learning,” said Beal. “You learn to switch gears by learning to work with kids of different ages and by working with kids with special needs. Every day is a new day.”
Siddall talked about further savings to be found by applying to the Early Childhood Education Assistance program.
The program offers graduates of ECE a $10,000 debt reduction credit, helping students avoid the pile of debt many students face upon graduation.
“You need to take out a student loan and complete the ECE course, and then you need to provide proof you’re employed at a licenced day care centre or a family home care agency,” said Siddall. “Once you graduate and work 1,500 hours the government will repay $10,000 back to your student loan.”
Siddall says one of her students used part of her $10,000 credit to place a down payment on a home.
“She worked at a restaurant while she attended NSCC and got an ECE job as soon as she graduated,” said Siddall. “She ended up with $10,000, and because she had already paid back much of her loan she had enough money for a down payment on a house.”
ECE graduates find jobs in many sectors, and Siddall talked about how graduates could soon find jobs within the public school system.
“They’ve opened four hubs in schools in Nova Scotia and there’s a childcare aspect to it where four-year-olds are in the program,” said Siddall. “It’s a play-based program, which is what we teach here, and ECE’s are running these centres, and the pay is quite good because it’s under the board of education.”
The program hasn’t been implemented in Cumberland County but could be sometime soon.
Beal, who is currently doing her work placement at Maggie’s Place in Amherst, sees many opportunities awaiting her.
“There’s a job opportunity now to be a nanny in Brazil, which I find exciting because I like to travel,” said Beal. “We also have more opportunities opening up in the school system, so that is another option.”
Anybody interested in becoming an early childhood educator can call Siddall at 597-8802 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fisher says people who succeed in the course have a passion for making a difference in a child’s life.
“Someone who is successful and thrives as an ECE is somebody who connects deeply with the children,” said Fisher. “And they can see first hand the positive impact they have on children and families.”