It’s 2022. If you’re still giving your staff apples instead of respect and recognition, it’s time to get with the program.
And no, this isn’t some subliminal message one of your team members is sending you through a blog post from the break room.
This advice is coming directly from our panel of early childhood education (ECE) experts.
Because, when it comes to collecting expert input, our team at MomentPath works hard to ensure we’re balancing insights and opinions from ECE insiders with diverse experiences and backgrounds.
That’s why, when we interviewed our panel on their top predictions for 2022, we were a little surprised. Literally, every single response had the same top prediction:
2022 is the year of the child care staffing crisis.
And while it’s definitely going to be a long road ahead for preschool hiring, it’s not all doom and gloom. Our experts offered several insights and tactics that can help early learning leaders fight this challenge and keep their best team members and teachers.
Here’s what they had to say.
Now seems like a good time to remember exactly how and why ECE is about so much more than “daycare”. If you’re in the mood for a refresher, check out our past expert roundup on Child Care vs. Daycare: 12 ECE Experts on Why Words Matter.
It’s no secret everyone has been feeling the national staffing shortage in early childhood education these past couple of years.
As an ECE leader, you probably recognize why some of this is happening. And it may seem like there’s not much you can do about it.
But the good news is, once you understand the contributing factors fueling preschool staff turnover, you can help minimize the impact on the quality of care and learning provided at your center.
Contrary to popular belief, the national staffing shortage isn’t all due to teachers being overworked and underappreciated (though that’s definitely part of it).
When you take a closer look, it’s clear that what’s happening in the early learning industry is fairly unique compared to others.
Diving deeper, we can see that there’s a wide variety of internal and external factors that are all working together in causing teachers and staff members to leave for new opportunities, both within and outside of the world of early learning.
“I think the biggest challenge facing ECE in the new year is staff burnout, staff turnover, and challenging behaviors in young children. Believe it or not, all these three are connected and related to each other.” — Megan Bowling, Stretch-N-Grow
Coming out of a global pandemic, we’re facing more challenging behaviors in young children.
Parents have spent lockdowns attempting to balance being a parent, as well as all other obligations around work, life, and everything in between. Preschoolers especially are understandably more vulnerable to behavioral challenges after having routines disrupted and limited access to alternative caretakers.
Outside of the behavioral issues, we’re also likely to see wider gaps in developmental milestones within the same age group. This is due to children having varying degrees of educational and engaging activities at home, depending on the challenges their families faced.
All of this is going to fall on the teachers.
Educators will need to work extra hard to develop a set of preschool standards and curriculum that is engaging and relevant to kids who are either behind or ahead. They’re going to have to deal with children who have new and unexpected behaviors, and parents who have increased anxiety.
It’s a lot of new pressure, especially for new teachers.
“The mass exodus of baby boomers from the workforce and the ramifications of the great resignation have made staff hard to come by. ” — Dr. Erica Vernold Miller, Founder & CEO, Professor Patty Cake Consulting
Experts predict that we’ll continue to see the number of teachers from the baby boomer generation decrease over 2022.
And not only because boomers are aging into retirement, but because the risk vs. benefit of working in the early learning industry is growing out of proportion. The older generation who may have continued working in the field because they enjoy their career are now faced with a whole new world in ECE.
Families and young children are leaning more on new technology and virtual learning. Older generations are facing increased health risks from being around children. Everyone in ECE is dealing with a more difficult and demanding day-to-day.
All of these factors combined are proving to be enough to push some boomers into retirement.
As boomers are retiring, younger generations aren’t rushing to fill their place.
A survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education found that 19% of undergraduate-level and 11% of graduate-level teaching programs saw a significant drop in enrollment in 2021.
Researchers believe this is due to the lower pay in comparison to careers that require similar levels of education.
On top of this, around 350,000 child care workers or roughly 1/3 of the workforce, were laid off during the pandemic. These layoffs, combined with the low salaries in ECE and child care, incentivized those workers to find careers in different industries.
Now that centers are back open, they aren’t exactly rushing back to the jobs that left them hanging.
Today, 1 in 3 teachers have reported that COVID-related challenges have made them consider leaving the industry or retiring early. With fewer teachers entering the workforce, it is more important than ever to lean on strategies and tactics that can help retain your staff and keep them from seeking outside opportunities.
“Now more than ever owners, leaders, and administrators need to create work environments where the teachers are feeling seen, heard, understood, included, and appreciated. ” — Prerna Richards CEO & Founder, Together We Grow
Despite the very real fuel to the staffing shortage fire, the truth is, turnover has always been an issue in ECE.
A 2012 study conducted by The National Survey of Early Care and Education shows some ECE centers face turnover rates as low as 5% and others as high as 30%. This suggests there is more than ample room for tangible improvement.
But the workforce is getting younger, and younger generations are already more likely to shop around for new opportunities.
“When people feel like an important member of a team, they develop a sense of loyalty.” — Cindy Terebush, Early Childhood Education Consultant, Helping Kids Achieve
Add this to the highly competitive job market, and you may find some of your best teachers have their eyes on other centers with better benefits.
Here are some tips straight from our experts:
“So much energy during this crisis has been placed on supporting [teachers]. It’s time to focus on our leaders.” — Cori Berg, Executive Director of Hope Day School & Founder of ECE from the Heart
While the national teacher shortage has a very real impact on everyone, administrators and ECE leadership teams are the ones really feeling the heat.
The good news?
When leaders are happy and supported, it’s easier for them to ensure teachers are too.
Supporting leadership can and should have a trickle down effect on the rest of the organization, so it deserves your attention this year.
Here are some tips from our experts on how to better support your center admins:
Even if you implement all of the above steps, turnover is still going to happen.
Between boomers retiring and the teacher talent market being more competitive than ever, you’re going to need to get proactive with your recruitment.
Whether you’re experiencing turnover in teachers, support staff, or leadership — our experts have some tips on how to draw in and retain new team members.
“Competition for qualified staff is becoming fierce, with employees and prospective employees ‘shopping around’ for the best offers from employers.” — Dr. Erica Vernold Miller, Founder & CEO, Professor Patty Cake Consulting
What makes recruitment extra difficult in ECE, is that you’re not just competing with other centers.
You’re competing with high schools, middle schools, elementary schools, and even completely different industries. You’re not just selling your center to new applicants, you’re selling the career as a whole.
With low salaries and tough working conditions, preschool hiring is harder than ever.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Here are a few things to keep in mind for a proactive recruitment strategy:
Focus on what other industries can’t offer, for instance:
Looking for a better way to engage your staff? In our deep dive on What Today’s Top Brands Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement, we explore how brands like Twitter and HP have supported their communities throughout the pandemic. Sit back, grab a coffee and get inspired!
“Programs that have participated in quality rating and improvement systems, quality accreditation systems, and other means of guiding high-quality practices are struggling with the ability to maintain those high standards.” — Cindy Terebush, Early Childhood Education Consultant, Helping Kids Achieve
It’s estimated that more than 44% of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years.
This has a devastating impact on the centers these teachers work for, but also the students who rely on them — which leaves us with the question:
How do centers maintain high-quality care in the midst of a hiring crisis?
The best thing you can do for your school is invest in ways to work smarter, not harder.
Finding digital childcare management solutions to alleviate stress and take more tasks off teachers’ plates is going to be more beneficial than ever.
It’s also going to mean more quality time with the young children in their care.
At MomentPath, we believe intentional technology can empower educators and tangibly improve the lives of the young children in their care. As a major bonus, it can also make life as an administrator much easier.
Schedule a demo with MomentPath today to see how technology can help you streamline your workflow, and put your focus back where it matters most.