Interview with Nesha O’Neil, president of Child Care NSW & Director of Norwest Child Care Centre
Are you looking for an active job rather than one that just has you sitting at a desk and staring at a computer all day? Being truly engaged in your work means more than clocking on and clocking off and engagement is something a career in child care will provide.
Nesha O’Neil, President of Child Care NSW discovered early that a child care environment was more than just a place to nurture young minds; it was a place to develop her own as well. By watching and playing, she enjoyed being involved in the development of others, extending their interests and educating them as well as guiding their behavior.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that since 1999, the proportion of parents using child care has increased. This reflects the increased participation of women in the workforce over time. This means that now more than ever, your skills and experience is needed to help children reach their potential – especially if you are a mother yourself. Child care is a constantly changing industry, much the way your thoughts and ambitions might change over time. Become part of the child care community and acknowledge that change is a good and positive aspect to your personal and working life.
If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies needed for a role in child care, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit for further education. You may already be on the path to making the change and not even know it.
Nesha grew up in and around Early Childhood Services, attending her grandmother's child care centre when she was just 2 weeks old. Her parents also ran centres, and now she and her sister owns and operates centres in North Western Sydney. After ten years working in Organisational Psychology and Recruiting, Nesha returned to Early Childhood and has spent the last 15 years providing high quality early childhood education for children and their families. She has been advocating via Child Care NSW for nearly 10 years and regularly speaks at conferences across Australia and internationally as well as being called on by media for comment on a weekly basis. She is a single mother of two amazing children, and delights to share her love of gardening and cooking with the children at her service.
My journey in child care
My family have been working in Children's Services for three generations, so I grew up in and around child care. I studied psychology at university, and in the end came back to what I know and love. It is an amazing sector with so many career opportunities, and every single day you get to see what an impact you are having on the lives of children and their families.
Now I own and operate two services in North Western Sydney, and I'm the President of Child Care NSW, so I spend a lot of time advocating and lobbying for better outcomes for children. I also speak at conferences across Australia and Internationally, I love this sector it's such a rewarding thing to be a part of.
Advice for those planning on entering the industry
It's not all fun and games and 'playing with kids all day'. Working with children and their families is hard work, it's physically and emotionally exhausting, and there's so much that you are expected to know and understand.
Find a high quality service, one that's going to invest in you, train you and demand the most from you, and you will learn so much in that first year.
Predictions for the future of the childcare industry
Get the right training. The industry is becoming more professionalised in that qualifications are a requirement not a 'nice to have', so students should be prepared to go on a long learning journey.
What that “looks like” is different for everyone, but students should understand that professional development will be a career requirement within this sector. There are lots of amazing things you can study within early childhood - for example one of my post-grad qualifications is in Special Education, Inclusive Support for the Early Years which was an amazing course to study and gave me lots of practical skills.
The demand for childcare professionals continues to grow
With the introduction of the National Quality Framework and Standards, the requirements for qualified staff became more stringent. Every staff member either needs to be qualified or working towards a qualification.
This means that it's not good enough to just have first aid training - with the growing understanding of the importance of the early years in optimal child development, it is vital that the educators working with children are qualified to bring about the best outcome for these kids.
How have recent legislation changes affected the industry?
All my life I've known change in the sector - when my grandmother started out there was little regulation or legislation. Now we report to 15 regulatory bodies and the legislation takes up an entire shelf in my office.
Things have certainly changed over the last 40 years. They'll continue to change, and that's probably a good thing to keep in mind as you enter this career, things will change.
A typical child care career path
Generally you'll start as a trainee or assistant, after time and with experience, you will become a roup leader - this means that you're responsible for the educational program for a particular group of children.
You can then become a room leader - which means you'll develop skills in managing staff, and then you can become a centre director. Children's services is a unique sector because there are lots of opportunities for educators to operate their own business. If that's where you want to head, then some business training would be useful as well, so that you know how to manage a viable company.