Staffing concerns as Lambton expands daycare

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Several agencies hosting open house March 9 to attract workers

Lambton will build 521 new licenced child care spaces by 2026 but officials say the biggest hurdle may be finding the early childhood educators to care for the children.

Valerie Colasanti, the general manager of social services for Lambton County, says the new spaces are part of the federal and provincial agreement to provide more affordable child care spaces. Lambton will be providing up to 521 spaces under the deal.

Colasanti says the spaces will be split between school based programs and licensed home daycare.

“These are all new spaces. Some of the ones in the school have already been discussed as the schools are building, so they know those are coming,” she says. “The ones outside of the schools, those are all new builds. So, some would be looking to expand existing childcare centers, and some would have to do new builds or partner with local municipalities.”

All that requires some coordination, recently a committee of Lambton County council agreed to the idea of hiring a coordinator for 18 months to get the project moving. That has to be approved by the full council.

And Colasanti admits they’re on a tight timeline; “Some of the school spaces definitely have already been planned. They’ve been in the planning for some time. So those ones will open a little bit more quickly.

“The other ones (through private or government partnerships or home daycare) we’re in different stages right now. We really have to look at where we were going to put them, what existing infrastructures are there, can we grow any areas?

And while that seems like time consuming job, Colasanti says getting the spaces built won’t be the most difficult part of the job.

“I think the biggest challenge was going to be staffing, it’s real challenge to get early childhood educators, we have some vacancies right now that we haven’t been able to fill. So that’s going to be our biggest challenge. And we do have a workforce plan, the province is developing one, but it’s going to be a real challenge to be able to staff.”

To help meet the need, an open house will be held March 9 at Sarnia Legion from 9 am to 3 pm to talk about the jobs which are available in the industry.