Working in early childhood care and education

This article examines employment opportunities for newcomers in two separate professions, early childhood care and early childhood education. Readers will find relevant recommendations for both in the sub-sections that follow.

As described by Ontario Small Business Services, the child care industry consists primarily of businesses that provide daycare services for infants and children. Your daycare can be a home-based operation, or it can be a commercial centre that serves a particular area or community. The choice of size, location, and specific services will depend on you. Some examples of daycare services include:

  • Babysitting.
  • Licensed child care agency.
  • Licensed centre-based daycare.
  • Early childhood education services.
  • Unlicensed or licensed home-based daycare.
  • Live-in or live-out nanny services in an employer’s home.
  • Child care for older children (before- and after-school care).

Early childhood educators differ from caregivers because, beyond supervision, they also teach children—from infancy to age 12—including those with special needs. To put it another way, early childhood educators plan, organize, and deliver inclusive play-based activities that help children develop intellectually, physically, socially, and emotionally. They’re responsible for shaping young minds into the best adults they can be. Roles in the profession include:

  • Preschool teacher.
  • Nursery school teacher.
  • Kindergarten teacher.
  • Camp counsellor.
  • Child-care program coordinator (after-school, hospitals. agencies, etc).

BC’s Skilled Immigrant Info Centre says that early childhood educators should enjoy working with children, have strong communication skills, be patient and understanding, and be physically fit, as they may have to stand, walk, bend, and lift items throughout the work day. They may also work on varying schedules. Preschool and school-based programs typically operate during the school year, offering approximately nine months of work to both full- and part-time employees. Daycare centres, on the other hand, generally remain open throughout the year and have more flexibility with their hours to accommodate busy parents. Although working with young children can be very rewarding, the Centre says, it can also be physically and emotionally exhausting given the demands on one’s patience. For further information on early childhood education, please see Ontario College’s page on the subject.

Early childhood care and education

Salaries for professionals in early childhood care and education vary depending on position. They make about $27,000 per year on the low end to $60,000 per year on the high end. The higher end likely applies to those working for licensed providers. Caring for the children of others’ in their own homes, either on a full-time or part-time basis, will rarely pay more than minimum wage.

Newcomers starting their own child care businesses can benefit from the following resources:

  • How to start a daycare in Ontario: A brief guide covering different business avenues, along with instructions on licensing, taxation, and management techniques (Government of Canada Small Business Services).
  • Child care start-up checklist: This reference walks you through the pricing of services, developing learning activities into a schedule, preliminary research about child care needs in your area, security measures to ensure child safety and the financial integrity of your business, and, if applicable, your responsibilities as an employer (Government of Canada).
  •  Is Running A Home Daycare Worth It?: A personal story that paints a detailed picture of the challenges you will likely face, and the multitude of decisions you will have to make, to set your home-based daycare up for success. (Parents Canada, Sep 9/18).
  • Childcare Resource and Research Unit (CRRU): The CRRU is focused on public education, resources, and consultation on policy and research in early childhood education and care (ECEC). Click the link above for a very comprehensive list of ECEC organizations in the province and across the country.

Need for English language proficiency

On average, college programs in early childhood education require a student’s English to be at a minimum of CLB 6. The level of English required to care for children in one’s own home, on an unregulated basis, will likely depend upon the parents’ comfort level.

Before considering a career in early childhood education, Settlement.org recommends being able to communicate in person with children, parents, and co-workers. You should also be able to read to children in English, teach them basic reading and writing skills, and take efficient notes to help yourself guide their progress. Being bilingual is a further benefit, given that Canadians are from all over the world.

Please check our Programs & Events page for ECEC programs for newcomers in the Greater Toronto Area. Use the ‘early childhood care and development’ filter under the sector field.

Regulation and certification

While ‘child care educator’ is a regulated occupation in Ontario, that of ‘child care assistant’—whether working in a school, daycare, or from a home—is not. To be an early childhood educator in Ontario, you must complete a recognized program and register with the College of Early Childhood Educators. See below for some useful resources:

  • The Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario further describes regulated child care in the province. Topics cover the role of local governments in managing child care services, as well as educational requirements for regulated child care centres and homes.
  • The Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014 (CCEYA) establishes regulations to better support parents and ensure the well-being of children under your care. Browse its key points in an easy-to-read frequently asked questions format.
  • The Ontario government also offers a free webinar many times throughout the year called, “Getting Licensed in Ontario for Internationally Educated Early Childhood Educators.” Please check our Programs & Events page for the next upcoming webcast.

Child-care centres and some home-based daycares in Ontario are licensed by the province’s Ministry of Education, but you may plan to offer unlicensed home-based child care on a very limited basis. As explained by the Government of Ontario, you will need a licence if you:

  • Care for more than 3 children under the age of 2 (including your own children).
  • Care for more than 5 children over the age of 2 (including your own children under the age of 6).
  • Run a private home daycare agency that contracts individuals who provide child care out of their own homes.

As a regulated daycare provider, you also need to meet provincial health, safety, and caregiver training standards. Here are a few worth mentioning that are applicable in Ontario:

  • Caregivers must be over the age of 18.
  • A home visitor will meet with licensed home-based daycare providers on a regular basis to conduct general inspections and provide support.
  • An unlicensed child care provider must inform parents in writing that they are unlicensed, either electronically or by hard-copy. A provider must keep proof of their disclosure for two years. The disclosure must say: “This child care program is not licensed by the Government of Ontario.”
  • All staff, volunteers, and students at licensed agencies and child care centres require criminal reference checks. This includes a vulnerable sector screening, which must be updated every five years. Offence declarations must be provided every year that vulnerable sector checks are not required.
  • All child care supervisors, employees, and home-based child care providers must have a valid standard first aid certification including infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • All providers, both licensed and unlicensed, are required to provide receipts for payment of services upon request.
  • Additional licensing may be required if you want to care for children with a physical, visual, or auditory disability, or if the child has a developmental, communication, behavioral, or chronic medical problem.

Newcomers are encouraged to contact their local Ministry of Education with any questions and to find out if their prospective businesses need to be licensed.

Last year, the Government of Ontario developed Bill 66, Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, 2019. The act introduces a series of legislative changes to The Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, that came into effect on July 1, 2019. They are summarized below.

1. Aligning the age at which home-based child care providers must count their
own children towards the maximum allowable number of children in care,
from 6 to 4 years old (the age at which most children attend school full time).
2. Increasing access to after-school programming by reducing the age at which
children can access authorized recreational and skill building programs, from
6 to 4 years old.
3. Increasing access to infant care by expanding the number of children that
home-based child care providers can have in their care, from two under 2
years old to three under 2 years old.
4. Eliminating a requirement that limited when a licensed home child care
agency could provide in-home services (i.e., licensed child care that takes
place in a child’s home).

Newcomers should supplement their reading about the bill with a sense of the criticism it has faced. Click here for access to The Association of Early Childhood Educators’ Ontario’s article in response to the bill.

Training programs for newcomers in the GTA

Ontario Colleges provides insights into training programs in early childhood education. Many colleges offer these programs at an entry level, asking only for an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) or equivalent with a grade 12 English credit.  Other Ontario colleges structure the courses as continuing education programs, for which all participants must have completed an undergraduate degree. This type of program will often be accelerated to three semesters as opposed to the traditional four. Certain entry level and continuing education programs may ask for additional requirements such as health certificates, immunizations, admissions testing, police record checks, and experience working with young children.

  • The Learning Enrichment Foundation runs a 14-week Early Childhood Assistant program with work placements totaling over 300 hours. Upon completion, participants receive certificates in WHMIS, food handling, Early Childhood Assistance, standard first aid, and emergency CPR, including infant and child CPR.
  • Boréal Hamilton offers a sector-specific OSLT program for childhood educators in French.
  • Mothercraft College of Early Childhood Education offers a free OSLT/ELT program for early childhood learning and development. It includes 4 weeks of work placement and is said to often lead to employment as an assistant or practitioner. Participants’ English must be at level CLB 6 to become eligible. There’s also an Introduction to Home Based Child Care program that covers fundamentals for those interested in the field.
  • Childminding Monitoring, Advisory and Services (CMAS) is an organization dedicated to caring for immigrant and refugee children. CMAS’ educational resources encompass many online tutorials focused on newcomer families.
  • Seneca, Centennial, Humber, and George Brown colleges offer programs in Child Studies and/or Early Childhood Education, but none are designed for refugees or other newcomers.

Please check our Programs & Events database for bridging and other training programs in early childhood care and education for newcomers in the GTA.

Job market outlook

According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the employment outlook is fair for early childhood educators and their assistants. Given Toronto’s growing population, demand for these workers is expected to increase moderately until the end of 2020. Qualified bilingual individuals may have better prospects.

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