Early Years & Childcare Workforce Profile

New Entrants

There are different options for entry into a career in working with children.  Individuals entering the sector normally fit into one of the following categories:

  • School leavers
  • Volunteers
  • Returning to work
  • Change of career

There are a range of government funded programmes which enable you to access work and earn while you gain a qualification. For further details visit the Department for the Economy website.

Most people start at introductory level by completing short courses or a level two qualification. Other’s may enter the sector on completion of GCSE’s, A’ Levels or Higher National Certificates/Diploma and degree programmes.

Before embarking on a training course or qualification, you should consider the area you would like to work and match this with an appropriate qualification.


What qualification is best for me?

The focus of the setting is a key element in determining what a relevant qualification might be. The aim and focus of the setting will guide what staff do. For example a setting with a focus on education may ask for a childcare qualification while a setting that focuses on play and promoting play is likely to ask for a playwork qualification.

Another important factor is the age range of children attending the setting. Childcare qualifications cover a broad age range of 0 to 12, but you may focus on one age range when completing course work in order to provide evidence for the qualification. This may not provide the relevant experience or knowledge for the older age range and therefore not be suitable for a play or out of school setting.


What is an employer looking for?

There are a number of things that an employer is looking for including relevant qualifications, suitable experience of working with children and young people, an ability to work alone and as part of a team, good interpersonal skills, an ability to communicate with parents and someone who likes children and young people and understands the challenges that come with this. Acceptable qualifications are closely linked to statutory requirements that employers have to comply with.

For example, the Minimum Standards for Daycare and Childminding state that ‘In an out of school club, the person in charge and deputy should have at least a qualification at Level 5 Diploma in Playwork or a Level 5 Diploma Child Care, Learning and Development; or a relevant occupational qualification in early years’ education, social work, nursing, teaching or health visiting; and 2 years’ experience working in a play, education, youth or day care setting.’

Refer to the section on Job Roles and Qualification Requirements for the Early Years and Childcare Sector in Northern Ireland for further guidance.