Hiring apprentices is an effective way to grow talent and develop a motivated workforce, says Gill Mason…
Kids Planet is a family-run group of over 100 nurseries across England. Our business is continually growing; we constantly need to recruit new team members and retain the team we have – retention ensures productivity and growth within the company.
As research shows, one aspect of early childhood education that is consistently associated with high quality is a low rate of turnover among team members, so we’re committed to providing clear career opportunities and progression routes to recruit and retain our teams, supported by a quality and robust apprenticeship programme.
We strive to employ people who share our vision and ethos and, in return, we provide opportunities to build a rewarding career. We want our teams to see childcare as a profession and encourage them to move forward in all aspects of their careers.
To help us create the best opportunities for our team, we launched the Kids Planet Training Academy in 2018. Through the academy, we offer apprenticeships to existing and new team members, as well as our external network, supporting CPD and career progression within the company and wider sector.
Hiring an apprentice is a productive and effective way to grow talent and develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce. Many team members at Kids Planet have flourished in their early years career from school leaver to senior manager.
We employ a highly skilled training team of tutors, assessors and mentors with extensive experience in early years, and have established a number of routes for team members to progress in an early years career, from school-age entry into the workforce through work experience, to traineeships and T level industry placements.
We offer a variety of apprenticeships, including Level 3 Early Years Educator and Level 4/5 Management and Leadership; a wide range of individual qualifications such as SENCo, Baby Massage, Makaton and PANCo; and Higher Education courses with clear pathways into graduate and post-graduate qualifications.
Jamie-Lee Pimlett is working towards a Level 5 EYLP (Early Years Lead Practitioner) qualification.
“Just a few months after starting the course, I accepted the position of acting deputy manager of Kids Planet Frodsham. Working towards the EYLP standard has undoubtedly supported my confidence in this role,” said Jamie Lee.
In 2020, we were delighted to achieve Main Provider status on the Register of Accredited Training Providers (RoATP), which enables the academy to offer our apprenticeship training support to other early years employers across the sector.
This includes supporting unqualified adults entering the profession to gain a recognised qualification and licence to practice in early years. Being able to do this has widened participation and employment opportunities in the local communities where our settings are based.
Through the academy, we’ve created a training pathway that allows people to start as school leaver apprentices and upskill along a clear path, all the way through to senior management.
There are opportunities to enter the company at any point along this development continuum, depending on qualifications and experience.
We’ve made links with local schools, community groups and colleges to offer work experience and careers advice, making sure we communicate clear expectations about what a job in early years entails, and championing a career in early years as a professional choice.
While some join straight from school or college, other new learners may have decided on a career change, or relocated. Hannah Dedenzcuk studied with Kids Planet for her Level 2 EYP qualification:
“I moved to the UK from South Africa in January 2020 and was looking for a new challenge. I was keen to gain a qualification, so the idea of an Early Years Apprenticeship really appealed to me.
“Initially, I found it challenging finding the balance between work and study; but once I got into the flow of the course, and with the support of my tutor, I found a good rhythm,” said Hannah.
“I have loved the opportunity to learn whilst studying. I particularly enjoyed putting theory to practice, by creating fun and engaging activities for the children which meet their age, stage, and abilities, and reflective of the current frameworks…. Eventually, I would love to study to degree level and Kids Planet offer plenty of opportunities to get there.”
Kids Planet has delivered a number of unique initiatives to support the recruitment of apprentices, including our recent ‘Men in Childcare’ project.
As both an employer and apprenticeship provider, we are acutely aware of the under-representation of men in the early years and male apprentices, making up just 3% of the total nationally. This lack of men is both a symptom and cause of gender inequality: childcare and education for young children should be a job for everyone, not just women – and we should model this clearly to the children and families in our care.
In 2020, we successfully tendered for a Removing Barriers to Apprenticeships fund, through Greater Manchester Combined Authority, to deliver a project in partnership with MITEY (Men in the Early Years) and Fatherhood Institute.
The project involved auditing our organisational processes and approaches to gender, and providing key support and training, in order to recruit more male apprentices in early years.
We learned so much through this process and we were delighted to be awarded the WorldSkills UK Diversity and Inclusion Heroes Award for Campaign of the Year in 2021.
After the project, we took direct action to recruit more men and launched our sports coach traineeship programme earlier this year. This is a ten-week programme that includes a work experience placement, combining hands-on skills with functional skills (maths and English) and essential IT skills.
We’ve seen first-hand the positive impact of recruiting more men into sports coach roles to support our nurseries, championed by existing male team members. Research shows the importance of play, sport, exercise, and learning outdoors for children, which has become even more pressing following the impact of lockdowns.
We’re delighted that our work has raised the profile of men in childcare. Our male employees play an integral role in the care and education of children in our care.
Gill Mason is the Head of Training at Kids Planet Training Academy.
Kids Planet is in the top 25 Apprentice Employers in the UK, having been ranked 21st in the List of Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers 2022