2nd October 2023 All Posts

Finding and Nurturing the Right Talent: A Journey through Early Years Education Recruitment

Guest blog: from Claudio Sisera,  Male Childcare and Teaching Jobs.

When I embarked on my career in the world of early years education, it wasn’t just a job for me; it was a calling. Nurturing young minds and helping them to grow and flourish has been a passion. But like every passion, it requires the right team, the right environment, and the right strategies.

Strategies for Attracting Qualified Candidates

In today’s digital age, leveraging the power of technology can be pivotal in attracting the right talent. Utilising digital tools and platforms is not only about posting vacancies but also about building an alluring brand presence that speaks volumes about your nursery’s ethos, culture, and environment.

Depending on where your potential candidates are most active, consider the following platforms:

  1. LinkedIn: Ideal for professional networking, sharing thought leadership, and highlighting employee milestones.
  2. Facebook: With community groups and pages, it’s an excellent space to showcase behind-the-scenes content and engage in community-driven activities.
  3. Twitter: Quick updates, shoutouts, and industry conversations can happen here, making it a hub for real-time interactions.
  4. Instagram: Its visual-centric approach makes it perfect for showcasing facilities, team activities, and candid moments.

Instead of merely spamming job ads, it’s essential to craft a structured recruitment marketing campaign. Here are elements that can make your campaign resonate with potential candidates:

  • Showcase Facilities: Highlight newly set up learning areas such as a home corner or science area. Use visuals to make them stand out.
  • Celebrate Milestones: Whether it’s staff birthdays, employee of the month awards, internal promotions, or newly qualified staff, celebrate and showcase them.
  • The People of Your Nursery: Introduce new recruits, celebrate team-building activities, or share moments of staff appreciation. These snippets give a glimpse of the nursery’s camaraderie and team spirit.
  • Happiness is Contagious: Share joyful moments around the nursery, be it from events or everyday occurrences.
  • Peek Behind the Curtain: Document behind-the-scenes activities, be it setting up for an event or the making of a new learning space.
  • Testimonials Speak Volumes: Whether it’s from staff sharing their journey or parents raving about their child’s key person, testimonials provide an authentic voice to your campaign.
  • Vision and Mission Tours: Videos or live sessions with managers explaining the ethos, pedagogy, curriculum, and vision can give potential candidates a comprehensive overview.
  • Ownership and Passion: Highlight staff members who take pride in their roles, perhaps through videos where they explain activities and associated learning outcomes.
  • Celebrate Awareness Days: Showcase how your nursery marks different awareness days, emphasising inclusivity and learning.
  • Transparency with Policies: Provide insights into how policies like risk assessments for risky play or safeguarding procedures are put into practice.
  • Accolades: Share positive Ofsted and food safety inspection outcomes as badges of honour and trust.

By sharing such content, not only do you position your nursery as an attractive workplace but also ensure that potential candidates get a holistic understanding of what working with you entails.

The Resounding Benefits of Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships have always been close to my heart. They provide aspiring educators a stepping stone and childcare settings a fresh perspective. During my journey, I collaborated with Realise, a company that offered me free recruitment services to hire apprentices. They truly behaved as though they were my dedicated recruitment agency, and also provided apprenticeship courses as part of government funding schemes. Their professionalism and efficiency stood out to me, making the entire process streamlined and effective.

Apprenticeships have been a cornerstone in the edifice of early years education, serving as the gateway for many young educators. They are akin to the clay in a potter’s hand, mouldable, and filled with potential.

During my extensive tenure in this sector, I learned firsthand the benefits of hiring apprentices:

  • Fresh Perspectives: Apprentices bring a breath of fresh air, innovative ideas, and often challenge the status quo with their questions.
  • Mutual Growth: Just as apprentices learn on the job, established educators learn from them, fostering a symbiotic relationship.
  • Dedication and Commitment: Most apprentices are eager to prove themselves, showcasing a heightened level of dedication.

A strategic approach I implemented was using apprentices as supplementary staff members. By not always counting them in ratios, I could provide my core staff across all classrooms with short respites. These 15-minute breaks throughout the day enabled them to unwind, enjoy a cup of tea, and rejuvenate. It’s akin to giving someone a brief moment to ‘recharge their batteries’ amidst a hectic day. Not only did this boost morale, but it also reinforced a culture of care and consideration within the establishment. By doing so, I noticed an overall increase in productivity, morale, and job satisfaction among the team.

Interview Techniques that Hit the Bullseye

Over the years, I’ve honed my interview techniques. One initiative that I’ve always championed is the anonymous feedback letterbox. During interviews, I always brought this up to highlight our setting’s commitment to transparency and open communication. It signified that every staff member was heard, their praises acknowledged, and concerns addressed. Introducing this during interviews ensured potential candidates knew that our establishment was one that genuinely valued its employees.

The art of interviewing is similar to mining – you’re sifting through the surface to find the golden nuggets beneath. Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned my approach:

  • Active Listening: This sounds basic, but it’s the bedrock. By genuinely listening, you not only understand the candidate’s words but also their passion, hesitation, and potential.
  • Scenario-based Questions: Putting candidates in hypothetical, yet realistic, situations related to the job role reveals their problem-solving skills and approach.
  • Open Communication: Highlighting initiatives like the anonymous feedback letterbox serves a dual purpose: it sets the tone for transparency and gives a peek into the organisation’s culture.
  • Cultural Fit: It’s not just about qualifications. Does the candidate align with your nursery’s values, ethos, and culture? This fit is often the difference between a good and a great hire.

Building an Enviable Work Environment

Having been on both sides of the recruitment desk, I understand the importance of listening to and accommodating the needs of educators. In my role as a full-time recruiter, it was disheartening to see many nursery managers hesitant to provide flexibility.

Job shares, part-time managerial positions, inset days for training, and dedicated time for observations/reports shouldn’t be exceptions; they should be norms. Such provisions not only enhance job satisfaction but can also make the industry more appealing, potentially attracting talent from other sectors. These benefits should be highlighted in job postings to entice quality candidates and showcase an establishment’s commitment to staff wellbeing.

Above all, there’s a game-changing policy that nurseries should consider earnestly: extended paternity leave. It’s more than just a perk; it’s a clarion call, signalling that male educators are welcomed and valued. At a deeper level, offering extended paternity leave is not merely about supporting new fathers. It’s about reshaping societal norms and expectations.

It is, in essence, making a profound statement: that your setting believes in gender equality and in nurturing a new generation where caregiving roles aren’t defined by gender. By promoting such policies, we not only beckon more male educators to the fold but also play a pivotal role in sculpting a forward-thinking society that extends to other industries.

Navigating Early Years Education Recruitment Challenges

The recruitment process in early years education is unique. The challenge lies not just in identifying qualified candidates but also those with genuine passion and commitment. My time as a recruiter revealed a significant gap: many nursery managers weren’t catering to the evolving needs of modern educators. To attract and retain the best, it’s crucial to be adaptable, open to change, and genuinely invested in the growth and welfare of the staff.

Wading through the recruitment waters is not always smooth sailing; sometimes, it’s like navigating a ship through stormy seas. Here are some challenges I’ve faced and the compass I used to steer through them:

  • Evolving Needs: Like trying to hit a moving target, understanding and catering to the changing needs of modern educators can be elusive. Regular feedback sessions and staying updated with industry trends can help.
  • Retention: Finding the right candidate is half the battle; retaining them is the other half. Offering continued training, fostering a positive work environment, and ensuring work-life balance are keys to this challenge.
  • Diversity: Embracing diversity isn’t just a buzzword; it’s essential. From gender diversity to embracing educators from various backgrounds, the broader the spectrum, the richer the learning environment.

My Personal Journey - A Tapestry of Experiences

My journey in the childcare sector has been an amalgamation of challenges, learnings, and rewarding experiences. Owning my childcare setting taught me the intricacies of management, the importance of every team member, and the value of creating a nurturing environment. My focus on recruitment highlighted the gaps in the industry, reinforcing the need for flexibility, inclusivity, and genuine care. And now, in my current role, I continue to advocate for diversity and inclusion, underscoring the richness it brings to any setting, with a specific focus on male teachers and early years practitioners.

Navigating the childcare sector is akin to charting a river’s course – filled with its twists, turns, and vital lessons at every bend. For this reason, I have put together some distilled takeaways from years in the trenches:

  • View Challenges as Opportunities: It’s often said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” In the world of childcare, every hurdle can be a stepping stone. Instead of being deterred by obstacles, see them as opportunities to grow, to innovate, and to improve.
  • Championing Diversity and Inclusion: Pushing for diversity, especially amplifying the role of male teachers in early years, goes beyond mere representation. It’s about harnessing a spectrum of experiences and perspectives to enrich children’s learning experiences. Encourage varied voices in your setting – the rewards are manifold.
  • Wear Multiple Hats with Grace: Owning or managing a childcare setting is a juggling act. You’re an administrator, a mentor, a mediator, and often a confidante. Embrace these roles. Each one teaches vital skills – from management nuances to understanding the unique value of every team member.
  • Stay Adaptable and Informed: The early years education realm is in perpetual flux. Like clay, it’s malleable and ever-evolving. To thrive, one must be adaptable. Whether it’s shifts in teaching methodologies, updates in curriculum, or evolving recruitment strategies, be the compass. Stay informed, stay agile, and guide your team through the currents of change.

In conclusion, recruitment in early years education is not just about filling a position; it’s about finding the right fit, nurturing candidates, and providing an environment where they can thrive. It’s a continuous cycle of learning, adapting, and growing. By integrating modern tools, being receptive to the needs of educators, and keeping the essence of childcare at the core, we can pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future in early years education.

Head to the Early Years Staffing Hub

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About the Author

Claudio Sisera is a seasoned professional in the realm of Early Years education. Over a distinguished 12-year career, he has ascended from an enthusiastic apprentice to an adept nursery manager, even establishing his own OFSTED-registered business—a testament to his commitment and expertise in the field. In recent years, Claudio has embarked on a pivotal mission: advocating for a greater representation of men in education. With a discerning eye on the noticeable gender disparity in this sector, he utilises his digital acumen to champion diversity and foster a more inclusive educational environment. Claudio Sisera welcomes you to join the conversation on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/claudio-sisera/