Mar 14, 2024  Jessica Holder

Rethinking Recruitment & Retention in ECE

The Great Toddler Tug-of-War: Rethinking Recruitment and Retention in Ontario's Early Childhood Sector

Ah, Ontario, the land of maple syrup, hockey, and a recruitment and retention crisis in the early childhood sector that's stickier than the mystery liquid you just wiped off of one of the preschoolers. If you've ever wondered why finding and keeping quality educators feels like herding cats, you're not alone. But here's the million-dollar question: Do we have it all wrong? And more importantly, can we turn this toddler tug-of-war into a game we can actually win?

Picture this: A sea of tiny humans, each with their unique quirks and needs, navigating the high seas of early childhood education. Now imagine the brave souls who've chosen to guide them—educators who are as patient as they are passionate, as skilled as they are sensitive. As brilliant as they are brave. Professional…educated…and the most critical sector to our future. These are the unsung heroes of our communities, and yet, they're facing a crisis of epic proportions.

Why, you ask? Well, it's a bit like trying to fit a square block into a round hole. The traditional approach to recruitment and retention in the early childhood sector often feels about as effective as teaching a toddler to tie their shoes in one sitting—frustrating, exhausting, and ultimately, futile.

But fear not, fellow Ontarians, for there is hope on the horizon. It's time to rethink our approach to recruitment and retention from a values-driven perspective. After all, if we want to build a brighter future for children, we need to start by building a stronger foundation for those who guide them.

So, what exactly does a values-driven approach look like? Well, for starters, it's about recognizing that early childhood education is more than just a job—it's a calling. It's about understanding that the work these educators do isn't just important; it's essential. And it's about acknowledging that the well-being of our children depends on the well-being of those who care for them.

But here's the kicker: A values-driven approach isn't just about warm fuzzies and feel-good vibes. It's about putting our money where our mouth is. It's about investing in our educators—in their training, in their professional development, and yes, in their field guides

Let's face it: You can't expect someone to stick around if they're barely making ends meet. And you certainly can't expect them to give their all if they're constantly worrying about how they're going to put food on the table. It's time to show our educators the respect they deserve—and that starts with fair compensation and benefits that reflect the invaluable nature of their work.

But it's not just about the Benjamins (or in our case, the Sir Wilfrid Lauriers). It's also about creating a culture of support and appreciation—a culture where educators feel valued, heard, and empowered to make a difference.

That means:

  1. Providing ongoing training and professional development opportunities, so educators can continue to grow and thrive in their careers. 
  2. It means fostering a sense of community and collaboration, so educators can lean on each other for support when the going gets tough. 
  3. And it means recognizing the unique strengths and talents of each educator, so they can bring their whole selves to the table, every single day.

in forest (1)So, do we have it all wrong? Perhaps. But the good news is, we have the power to make it right. By embracing a values-driven approach to recruitment and retention, we can build a brighter future for our children—and for the educators who shape it.

So let's roll up our sleeves, Ontario, and get to work. Because when it comes to early childhood education, there's no time to waste—and plenty of fun to be had along the way. 

After all, who said solving a crisis couldn't be a little bit fun along the way?

Published by Jessica Holder March 14, 2024
Jessica Holder