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Lack of ECEs a struggle in reaching provincial child care target

'We're literally competing with Walmart' when it comes to ECE wages, says the county's social services administrator
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GUELPH/WELLINGTON – It will be difficult for the county to reach provincial targets for child care spaces due to a lack of early childhood educators (ECE), says the social services administrator. 

The County of Wellington’s social services committee heard this Wednesday afternoon during an update on the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) by Mandy Koroniak, the county’s director children’s early years division. 

Koroniak explained the Ministry of Education’s directed growth plan has a target of 1,721 childcare spaces created, including school-based spaces, in Guelph and Wellington County from 2022 to 2026. Some of these spaces have already been opened or approved.

When asked by Coun. Steve O’Neill, Koroniak acknowledged there will be challenges in reaching targets and building new county-operated facilities isn’t a simple process. 

Luisa Artuso, social services administrator, said the workforce factor needed to be brought up in this conversation as well. 

“It is going to be very difficult to get 1,700 spaces or for the province to reach their provincial number if there is no workforce to do it, and that is what’s happening out there,” Artuso said. 

Similar to the exodus of nurses from hospitals the province has seen, Artuso said the same thing is happening with ECEs who are leaving the profession “in droves.”

“The ministry has set for 2023 the benchmark is $19 an hour for an ECE,” Artuso said. “How are we going to attract a workforce and get these spaces online when no one wants to work for $19 an hour? We’re literally competing against Walmart.”

“I pay more on the farm to drive a tractor,” Coun. Matthew Bulmer commented in response.

What would be an attractable wage for ECEs? Artuso said $30 an hour to start. 

“That’s really not that much more considering what they’re going to be doing,” said Coun. David Anderson, committee chair.

Artuso mentioned ECEs are also recognized professionals who must belong to the college of ECEs to be officially recognized.

“We’re talking about early learning and pedagogy, who are educating the children their first five years of life … it sets the foundation for their livelihood,” Artuso said. “They are being under-recognized, underpaid and we know there’s a lot of research that shows wages and satisfaction of ECEs is directly related to quality.”

Anderson said regional governments need to step-up and delegate to the provincial government otherwise nothing will change. 

The committee decided to try to bring this up in a delegation at the AMO conference being held later in the summer.

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Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka is a general assignment reporter for EloraFergusToday, covering Wellington County. Keegan has been working with Village Media for more than two years and helped launch EloraFergusToday in 2021.
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