Hands-on work 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 workplace based 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 do some work experience!
How to get work experience in childcare
Find or choose a child care centre
So you need to get some work experience in child care – how do you choose which child care centre?
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?
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 work in can help you prioritise which centres to approach.
Reach out to family and friends. Networking is an excellent way to find 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 child care centre!
How to get a work experience position
Call them, or just walk into their reception, and tell them you’re looking to do some work experience in a 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!
Have a resume!
It’s any easy way to communicate essential information about yourself quickly (you can find a resume template here). If you’re really nervous about approaching a child care 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 work experience position, so if you don’t have any work history 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, principles, previous bosses, a co-worker, a customer or client you’ve worked with regularly, 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 working with children. Nothing low cut, not 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 they have 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 centre – 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 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 interview questions you could be asked:
- How will you get here each day?
- Do you have any medical conditions the employer 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?
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 paying child care jobs! Most of the same principles we’ve covered here also apply when you’re looking for paid positions.
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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