ECE workers able to upgrade credentials with help from training wage program
Shelley-Anne Jorgensen always dreamed of being a preschool teacher. Nurturing the development of young children with compassion and patience always appealed to her. But to achieve her goals, she’d need formal training, as educating children is more than just playtime and crafts.
Jorgensen graduated from the College of New Caledonia’s Early Childhood Educator (ECE) program in Prince George in 2008 before moving to the Kootenays in 2012. After working as a substitute at a few different centres, she finally landed her dream job at Salmo Children’s Centre in 2018.
“I love working with children,” says Jorgensen. “Exploring our little town and the abundance of nature around us is one of the highlights of my work. Being a part of children’s early years is a privilege.”
But her career ambitions didn’t stop there. When Centre Director Christine Stewart offered Jorgensen the option to upgrade her credentials through the Trust’s Early Childhood Educator Training Wage Program, she embraced the opportunity.
“Having worked in preschools with wonderful mentors, I felt ready to take the program on,” she explains. “I’m very fortunate to work with people who are always supporting me to grow as an educator.”
The Training Wage Program helps strengthen the ECE workforce by providing a training wage to support workers so they can complete and/or upgrade their qualifications, which enabled Jorgensen to pursue her Infant & Toddler training. She started the program through Selkirk College in September 2022 and finished in the spring of 2023.
“I did one course and two practicums to get my diploma,” says Jorgensen. “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but also working 40 hours a week and being a parent of two made it challenging! Overall, it was a great experience and I learned a lot of new skills.”
She admitted she never considered going back to school because of the high cost until hearing about the subsidy, which made the process feasible and affordable.
Because ECEs must complete at least 40 hours of professional development and 400 hours of work experience every five years to renew their license, being able to afford quality programs to achieve this is crucial. Stewart says having access to the subsidy has been integral for Salmo Children’s Centre employees.
“It’s a great incentive for staff to upgrade their education,” she says. “Tuition is expensive, so going to school is a really hard choice to make when you don’t have the money or time. To be paid on those days when you need to finish a paper or write a test is important.”
Stewart has used the Training Wage Subsidy to support four different members of her team, starting in 2021, the value of which has been twofold for the centre.
“Having more knowledgeable and qualified staff brings higher quality care to the kids that attend our programs,” Stewart adds. “So, I would certainly recommend the subsidy to other childcare centres.”
Accessible support like this ensures a bright future for both ECEs and the young children growing up in Basin communities. Jorgensen is grateful she had the opportunity to advance her career and equip herself with enhanced skills and knowledge that ultimately benefit the kids she works with.
“Having my Infant & Toddler diploma helps not only myself but also the centre,” she says. “I was able to cover the costs of school, as well as the tools to do the courses remotely. I hope more people take this opportunity to become an ECE or to upgrade their credentials. For me, working with children is the best part and it’s something I plan to continue doing for many years to come.”