Skip to content

New program qualifies Prince Rupert high school students to be ECE assistants

Coast Mountain College partners with senior students to gain credit grad and college course
Coast Mountain College is partnering with local high schools to train early childcare education assistants in a new program which offers credit for high school grad and ECE qualification. Josie Pottle rocks out to placing painted rocks by more than 14 different Prince Rupert childcare organization staff and tots for rock gardens around the city to mark May 2021 as Childcare Awareness month. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Coast Mountain College (CMC) is working with local high schools to offer a new course for senior students, which could help alleviate childcare staffing shortages on the North Coast.

Nineteen students in Grade 11 and 12 started the course at Charles Hays Secondary School on Feb 1. Once complete, at the end of April, they will be qualified as early childhood education (ECE) assistants, Vicki Mackenzie-Denis, instructor and chair of the early childhood care and education department at CMC stated.

While several factors contribute to the childcare shortage in Prince Rupert, Judy Riddell, program manager at The Berry Patch Child Care Resource and Referral, believes insufficient staffing is the biggest barrier.

Between April 2021 and March 2022, she received 109 referrals for childcare and said she could not fill any. This suggests the city is more than 100 spots short. She did not have data available yet for the period between April 2022 and March 2023.

Students will be earning credit toward their high school graduation while simultaneously earning credit toward the ECE program at CMC. Currently, four secondary schools are participating in the program, including Charles Hays Secondary School, Pacific Coast School, Hartley Bay School and Lach Klan School.

Once becoming ECE assistants, students will not be able to be alone with children in childcare. Still, they will be able to support ECE-trained workers, Sandy Pond, director of instruction at SD 52 said during the general school board meeting on Feb. 21.

Different licences and staffing qualifications are required depending on the childcare centre and the age of the children who attend it. However, having more ECE assistants available could theoretically increase the number of childcare spaces available in the region, Mackenzie-Denis, the CMC instructor, said.

“Depending on the individual care facility, having ECE assistant staff may allow for increased childcare spaces and will support overworked certified ECEs. Having qualified ECE assistant staff will help struggling centres keep their doors open to support working families in various communities,” she said.

The current course offering is the first of two sessions on a trial of the new high school program.

READ MORE: New $25 million children and family support centre announced for Prince Rupert

 Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Send Kaitlyn email
Send The Observer email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter