Daycare worker fights subsidy cuts

When it comes to childcare worker qualifications in the territory, it seems that experience counts for little. At least that's how Stephanie Joyeux sees it.

When it comes to childcare worker qualifications in the territory, it seems that experience counts for little.

At least that’s how Stephanie Joyeux sees it. She works with children at a local daycare, and has more than six years experience as a level three childcare worker – the highest level there is.

But because her education isn’t from a certified Early Childhood Development program, she has to jump through hoops every year to maintain her qualifications and her pay scale.

“When I first started working in the Yukon, I was told to, ‘Get ready, you’re going to be jumping through hoops. All I’ve been doing is jump, jump, jump,” she said.

Her frustration isn’t with the fact that she has to take courses. She would happily do them if she thought it was helping her improve as a childcare worker, but because of territorial regulations, the classes she has to take are redundant, she said.

Graduates of an ECD program don’t have to take yearly courses, regardless of their work experience or specialization.

The extra hassle for people with related backgrounds like Joyeux is likely keeping good workers out of the profession, she said.

“I’ve been going around and meeting people who have a bachelor of education. That is still not recognized. The classes they ask you to go do, if you’ve been working in the field for 10, 15 or 20 years, it’s pretty much stuff you already know.

“People don’t really feel that you’re learning anything to do those classes. It’s not like professional development where you’re learning new information that comes out every year,” she said.

Joyeux said it’s particularly frustrating for her because her background is in special education. She’s qualified to work with children with special needs, and has done so for years. In Quebec, she worked with developmentally challenged children and managed a daycare. But all of that counts for very little in the Yukon, she said.

When Joyeux’s level three expired last year, she was working and being paid at that level. Neither she nor her employer noticed when her level expired, but a daycare inspector caught it.

The Yukon government gives a $9 per hour subsidy to daycare operators to help encourage them to hire level three workers. When Joyeux’s level expired, the government cut the subsidy to her employer until she had recertified.

She lost $2,000 in wages and her employer lost $5,000 in subsidies.

“If your level expires, they cut the subsidies. Because I had already been paid as a level three, my options were to reimburse my employer or, what actually happened, my employer took that as a loss. It meant less money for the kids, and I felt really bad.”

Joyeux ended up being able to simply challenge the exam in the class, and once she passed it, her subsidy was reinstated. She asked if the territory would also pay back the lost wages and subsidies, but the government said no.

At first, the child care services unit told Joyeux she could appeal the decision, but was then told the appeals process no longer exists.

She tried to set up meetings with the department but got nowhere.

Frustrated, she started a petition to ask the government to take work experience into account.

Her petition has about 75 names so far, and she said every daycare she visits is supportive of her push.

But there is only so much that childcare services can do because most of the regulations are laid out in the Child Care Act, explained Brad Bell, the manager of early childhood development.

“The educational requirements comes in under the legislation, and that’s what we recognize,” Bell said.

The government only sets the minimum education requirements to work in the field, Bell said. Its up to the employer to decide how it wants to recognize relevant work experience.

“Research has actually drawn a link between having trained staff in terms of quality programs. We really don’t get into somebody’s experience. We’re really not qualified to assess somebody’s work experience or skills,” Bell said.

There are three main levels and two sub-levels of qualification that a childcare worker can achieve, based on the number of coursework hours completed. Only the full level three granted to someone without an ECD diploma requires a yearly update.

Workers like Joyeux are able to apply to programs at accredited institutions like Yukon College to have their past educational experience credited towards ECD program requirements, Bell said.

Requiring one ECD course per year is a way of encouraging workers to complete the training, Bell said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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