Can male practitioners solve the workforce crisis?

There’s no doubt that the continuing workforce crisis is severely impacting the childcare sector. Not just here in Scotland but across the UK, and with the planned childcare expansion, here and south of the border, we need to rethink how we encourage new practitioners to join the sector.

Or perhaps, rethink who we are targeting!

Childcare is an almost gendered sector, with 96% of the workforce made up of female practitioners.  There is a recognition that male childcare practitioners are important and bring a range of unique skills and perspectives to the sector, but unfortunately, there are still relatively few men working in early leaning and childcare – approximately 4% according to Scottish Government figures.

But why is this and how do we convince men to join the sector?

At FCSS we understand that male childcare practitioners make a significant and positive impact on the lives of young children, and we believe that it’s important to encourage more men to join the sector, further promoting greater diversity and inclusion in early years.

Lesley Tait, Head of Early Learning and School Age Childcare said,

”Childcare is traditionally seen as a career for women but it’s a myth we want to dispel. We have a few male childcare practitioners in our teams, and they provide knowledge and skills that the children and families value and appreciate. It gives the children the opportunity to see that men can look after and care for you, not just women. Children can build positive relationships with males in a safe and caring environment if this has been a challenge for them in the past.  Men in childcare can bring different strengths and approaches that the children may not have had previously, and this can have a positive impact on the way that children learn and develop.”

According to Joe who works predominantly with children with additional support needs in our Aberdeenshire groups,

“I think it’s important to have male workers in the sector because it allows the children to have a male figure supporting their learning journey. I haven’t faced any challenges from parents or carers, but I would understand that it might be strange for some…if I did face criticism, I’d explain that I have been PVG checked and get the same training as everyone else.”

Habib, another male childcare practitioner in Aberdeen, said

“It is important for men to be at the nursery. The benefits male practitioners bring in is underestimated and the potential career paths have been undervalued. Men also bring a different perspective on play and activities adding value to the nursery as a whole. Those children who may grow up without a male role model in their lives benefit tremendously from having this support in the setting.”

At FCSS we believe that it’s important for children to interact with individuals from various backgrounds, including different genders. Having a mix of male and female practitioners ensures that children can benefit from a wide range of caregiving styles and experiences. Male practitioners can provide guidance and support helping children to develop positive self-esteem, confidence, and healthy relationships with other men.

From speaking to some of our male practitioner in our settings we know that they value their roles.

According to Joe,

“I personally think that this is the most rewarding job in the world, especially working with children who have additional support needs. The relationships I have made with the kids have been so beneficial for me and the children.”

“I enjoy working with children, it’s a job with plenty of rewards,” explained Habib, “it’s an opportunity to see people flourish in their development and become confident, independent learners. Numerous practitioners don’t see this as a job, they see it as an opportunity to make a significant difference in a child’s life and that is one of my primary reasons for choosing this role.”

But how to reach and convince men that childcare is for them?

In 2018 the Scottish Government launched a £50,000 Men in Early Years Challenge Fund the outcomes of this investment are unclear but we all need to work harder to convince men that childcare is for them.

To demonstrate our commitment to support men into the sector we have signed the MITEY Charter, further showing that we value men’s potential to contribute positively to the care and education of young children in Scotland and across the UK.

Habib said,

“My advice for any man interested in joining the sector is to remain steadfast, follow your instincts and don’t let other people’s opinion cloud your mentality – childcare is a job that you will enjoy and one that will make you want to wake up early eager to begin!”