Hands-on workplace experience is essential to becoming a child care worker. When you do your Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care (the minimum qualification for working in a child care centre starting last 2014) you need to complete between 80 and 240 hours of work placement experience in a registered child care centre.
If you continue on to the Diploma of Childhood Education and Care, you’ll need to complete a recommended 368 hours of workplace-based experience. So unless you’re already working in child care jobs in a registered child care facility, you’d better get ready to complete work placement!
How to Get Childcare Work Experience
Find or choose an early learning centre for childcare work placement
So you need to get some work experience in child care – how do you choose which childcare centres are suited for your work placement?
Start by seeing what facilities are running in your local area. You’ll make your own life much easier if you don’t have to commute long distances each day – which also costs you time and money.
Decide what kind of experience you want to develop. Do you want to work in a huge child care centre looking after 100 kids? Would you prefer a small, intimate setting looking after 20 children? Career choice is important and you should have it all sorted right off the bat — which is why finding the ideal work placement scenario for you is key!
Some child care centres are run as part of a commercial chain; some are small, owner-operated businesses, while others are conducted by non-profit organisations or local governments. Knowing what kind of environment you’d prefer to have your work placement in can help you prioritise which centres to approach to gain hands-on experience.
Reach out to family and friends. Networking is an excellent way to find early childhood work placement opportunities you never knew existed. Talk to your parents and siblings, extended family and get in touch with friends. You never know who is looking for some extra help at their childcare centre. This can also expand your career choice as the opportunities here are endless!
How to Get a Work Experience Position in Early Childhood Education
Call them, or just walk into their reception, and tell them you’re looking to do some childhood education and care work placement experience in a registered education child care centre.
Choose your time of day. They’ll probably be busy during peak drop off and pick up times for children – so plan to get in touch when they’ll have time to talk for a few minutes. Be friendly, shake hands, smile and make eye contact. Always be polite and watch your language! — you are in childcare, after all.
Have a resume!
It’s an easy way to communicate essential information about yourself quickly (you can find a resume template here). If you’re really nervous about approaching a childcare centre, it gives you a chance to put down everything you want to communicate to them in a single sheet.
Your qualifications should be listed clearly in your resume. Employers will check if you already have or are currently studying the most recent qualification, the Cert III in Early Childhood Education and Care, so don’t make it hard for them!
Don’t forget to write a short cover letter outlining what you want – why you’re applying to them, what you want to achieve, how long you want to work there.
You’re applying for a childhood education and care work experience position, so if you don’t have any work history, education or experience to put down on your resume, it’s not a big deal. You CAN tell them about any babysitting you’ve done, caring for younger siblings, or looking after kids of your own.
Include two references as well – people you’ve babysat for, school teachers, principals, previous bosses, a co-worker, a customer or client you’ve worked with regularly, a member of a charity you volunteer with, or the coach of your sports team.
Create a good impression!
You’re asking them for a favour so make it easy for them to say yes. Dress well – appearance is a big part of first impressions. You don’t need to suit up but make sure you’re clean, neat and presentable.
Wear appropriate clothes – it’s not a night out, you’re trying to get a position in early childhood education. Nothing low cut, no short-shorts, no spaghetti straps, don’t wear thongs and keep logos or art child-friendly (no zombie t-shirts, beer logos or foul language!).
Make nice, genuine comments!
If the childhood education and care centre has great toys, tell them you like their toys. If they have amazing play equipment, compliment them on it.
Always be genuine but not over-the-top; most people can see through falsehoods, and trying too hard might be just as bad as being negative.
Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their education and care centre and how they do their work placement– they’re probably proud of it, and their skills as child care professionals.
Questions demonstrate you’re keen to learn and you can find out a lot about how they operate. Even if you don’t get a position in that centre, the answers will help you at the next one.
Even before you approach a child care centre about childcare work experience, and especially if they call you in for an interview; take some time to think through the kinds of questions they might ask you. You can tap family, friends and the internet for ideas if you’re struggling on your own.
Here are some early childhood education interview questions you could be asked:
- How will you get here each day?
- Do you have any medical conditions the employer/childcare centre should be aware of? (Allergies, asthma – tell the truth
- How will you balance work and study?
- Have you had any other jobs?
- Do you have children of your own?
- If you have tattoos and/or piercings, the interviewer may ask you if you’d remove them (piercings, not tattoos!) or cover them up when you’re at the child care centre?
- Do you have any experiences working with children, or anything that can relate to early childhood education?
You may also be asked specific questions about your skills and scenarios. Don’t worry, you will learn all the child care essentials while you are completing your child care course.
Starting Your Professional Child Care Career
Don’t forget – if you’re studying towards your Cert III in Early Childhood Education and Care, you can already start working in child care jobs! Most of the same principles we’ve covered here also apply when you’re looking for paid positions in early childhood.
However, you may find it easier to get a volunteer position first if you don’t have any prior work experience. This way you should be able to get a good reference for potential employers and, most importantly, EXPERIENCE!
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