PC MLA Natalie Jameson says early childhood educators on Prince Edward Island aren't being paid enough.
In question period Thursday, Jameson said students studying to become early childhood educators on P.E.I. are dropping out of training because they're discouraged by their prospects of making a living in the field.
"I am hearing that students enrol because they love children and they want to make a difference in their lives. And when reality sets in, they feel they won't be able to live off the wages they make in their beloved field," Jameson said.
She said 21 students were enrolled in the early childhood care and education program at Holland College in 2016, but in the spring of 2018 only 12 students graduated from the program.
Jameson also said she is concerned about the tendency for ECE wage increases to be one-off instances rather than increases made over time.
"I have actually heard that their wages do not even keep up with inflation," she said.
Minister of Education and Lifelong Learning Brad Trivers said he is looking to announce a multi-year plan "soon."
Trivers said the department is currently working with the Early Childhood Development Association of P.E.I. to address the challenges facing early childhood education on P.E.I.
"What we're working towards is a multi-year plan so that early childhood educators can see how the wages are going to increase over the long term to provide them really a wage that is so important for the work that they do," he said.
I have had countless conversations with eager young mothers who are prevented from returning to work. — Natalie Jameson
Jameson also raised concerns over the province's plan for a pre-kindergarten program to be launched in the fall of 2020.
"I understand that approximately 30 new ECEs will be required to meet the future demands of the pre-K program," Jameson said.
Jameson said parents on P.E.I. have a difficult time finding child care on the Island as the demand currently exceeds the number of spaces available at early child-care centres.
"I have had countless conversations with eager young mothers who are prevented from returning to work to provide for their families because they cannot find child care for their most prized possessions," Jameson said.
"We know that we need to catch up when it comes to their wages. We know that we're never going to meet our ambitious target for pre-K unless we are able to address some of the issues ahead of time," Trivers said.
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