The shortage of staff in early childhood education and care (ECEC) has long been a challenge in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and it has also given rise to active public debate. The calculated estimate is that the Helsinki Metropolitan Area will need 3,200 new ECEC experts with a higher education degree by 2030.
There are many reasons for this challenge and because of this, there are also many solutions, which are being identified in cooperation between the City of Helsinki and the University of Helsinki. The sector must take care of its existing capable staff, but the sector is also in dire need of new experts and an increase in the sector’s attractiveness. Additionally, the current staff must be trained according to the Act on Early Childhood Education and Care, which was reformed in 2018.
One major solution to retaining experts in the sector and ensuring the sector’s ability to comply with the legislative reform is organising training that allows existing motivated ECEC employees to obtain the qualifications required to become an ECEC teacher.
In mid-June, the Ministry of Education and Culture decided on a one-time grant of EUR 31 million for continuous learning, intended to boost employment, equality and the availability of capable labour throughout the country. It is important that some of this funding was allocated to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area for training that allows ECEC employees with different backgrounds to obtain the qualifications required to become an ECEC teacher. The funding will be used to organise roughly 80 study places that will be divided into multiform training for Bachelors and Masters of Arts (Education) as well as qualification training for childcarers in ECEC, among other things. Within the City of Helsinki alone, the number of applicants interested in qualification training exceeds the number of places available many times over.
However, the funding is not sufficient relative to the need. The University of Helsinki received sufficient funding with its own application, but the funding applications submitted together with other universities were not as successful, and only roughly half of the study places applied for will be realised. The sufficiency of staff in Swedish-language ECEC has reached such a critical level in Helsinki that the City has been forced to assign some Swedish-speaking families to a temporary placement in Finnish-language ECEC. However, the ministry did not grant funding for Swedish-language qualification training to the University of Helsinki.
‘The multiform training and retraining channels in early childhood education and care require long-term funding sufficient in volume in order for the change in the staff structure and staff shortage to also be solved in this respect. This should be more visible in future decision-making by the ministry. The direction is right, but the volume and speed must be increased,’ say Deputy Mayor for Education Pia Pakarinen from the City of Helsinki and Rector Sari Lindblom from the University of Helsinki.