Closing the early years learning gap one traineeship at a time

By isabell Petrinic, 29 December 2022
Ambrose Pathway Program participant Amelia (left) with Addie and Connor at Ambrose Early Learning Stanhope Gardens. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Amelia’s path to her dream career in Children’s Services began with a 20-week work placement in the Ambrose early learning centre co-located with her school. Now, thanks to a program offered to students in the Diocese of Parramatta, she is completing a Diploma in Early Learning Education free of charge at the centre while being paid a full-time salary.

With school exams now well and truly over, many young people may be considering their next move. An emerging program offered in the Diocese of Parramatta is helping to bridge the skills gap in the Early Childhood Education & Care sector, as well as giving students and trainees an opportunity to become qualified supported by paid work.

According to the National Skills Commission – which tracks job demand via online ads – early childhood educators are currently the fifth most in demand profession in Australia, averaging 4,549 job ads a month from June to August 2022.

Ambrose, which operates six early learning centres and 49 out of school hours care centres in the Diocese of Parramatta, is offering students with a genuine passion for child development the opportunity to work in the sector while still in school.

The Ambrose Pathways Program also includes access to fee-free qualifications for Certificate III, Certificate IV, and Diploma qualifications.

“Completing a Certificate III or a Diploma in early childhood education at no cost to the student is an incredible opportunity,” said Jessie-Leah Khazzouh, the Professional Development Coordinator at CDPSL (Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Services Limited), the Diocesan organisation behind Ambrose.

“Work placement is a great opportunity for them to dip their toes in the water. That can happen at one of our extended hours centres, which are open during the school holidays.”

Amelia, one of five trainees currently following an Ambrose pathway, said:

“It’s definitely something I’d recommend to others.”

The number of trainees is expected to quadruple by 2023.

The Ambrose Pathways Program

The Program offers three pathways: work placements, school-based traineeships, and work-based traineeships.

High school students can get work experience in one of the Ambrose Early Learning services within the Diocese. If they are in Year 11 or 12, they can undertake a school-based traineeship, studying a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education & Care whilst completing their HSC.

As part of the traineeship, the student also works part-time at an Ambrose service which provides practical experience, the support of mentors and an income.

“Definitely the aim is to retain the trainee,” says Vickie Parkes, Director of the Ambrose Early Learning Centre Stanhope Gardens, where Amelia is based.

“This can also be a stepping stone to primary teaching.”

Amelia’s path to a dream career

Amelia got her first taste of the early learning profession in Year 10.

“While I was at St Mark’s [now known as St John XXIII Catholic College] I did work experience one day a week for 20 weeks. I really liked it,” she said.

In Year 11, Amelia enrolled in CathWest Innovation College Mt Druitt and came back to the service to complete a school-based traineeship, along with a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education. Being paid was a welcome bonus.

Now, Amelia is completing a Diploma in Early Childhood, through a work-based traineeship at the centre.

“I love my team and the job itself – being able to help the children and to watch them grow,” said Amelia, who can now pass on her knowledge to the latest school-based trainee, Sophie.

“The year group when I had my work placement is in Year 2 now. I see them walking past the gate. They don’t remember me,” she laughed.

Isabell Petrinic is a freelance writer and contributor to Catholic Outlook.

This article was originally published in the 2022 Advent | Summer 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can pick up your copy of the magazine in parishes and offices across the Diocese of Parramatta now or you can read the digital version here.


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