It is a perfect storm. By 2020, the Scottish government has promised to almost double free nursery hours for three-and four-year-olds, meaning it requires an additional 11,000 early years workers – something that it says amounts to “an unprecedented expansion of the current workforce”.
However, recruiting from the European Union is likely to get a whole lot more complicated post-Brexit and 6.8 per cent of the current Scottish early-years workforce are EU nationals – the second-highest proportion in the social care sector.
The Scottish government – along with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) which registers the early years workforce – is therefore calling on the UK government to put nursery workers on the Scottish Shortage Occupation List, which would make it easier for overseas workers with the right skills to get jobs north of the border.
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The call forms part of the Scottish government’s submission to the UK government’s Migration Advisory Committee about the range of occupations which are officially classed as suffering from a shortage of staff.
The government also wants primary teachers and a wide range of secondary specialists placed on the shortage occupation list, saying Brexit could also have “serious ramifications” for the teacher recruitment crisis and could “seriously impede” the drive to close the attainment gap.
The Scottish government said: “The uncertainties around Brexit could have significant consequences for those already part of the workforce, but also for the potential pool of candidates who may wish to work in ELC [early learning and childcare] and live in Scotland.”
It added: “It is the support worker and practitioner categories which form the vast majority of additional workers required for the expansion programme and which we would like to see appear on the Scottish Shortage Occupation List.”
The SSSC said it expected to see “a significant increase” in staffing levels and vacancies in the early years between now and August 2020.
“As the workforce regulator for Social Services the Scottish Social Services Council is actively working with the Scottish government to support the policy of expanding the early learning and childcare workforce. The policy requires an unprecedented expansion of the current workforce. It is estimated by Scottish Government that an additional 11,000 staff will be required by 2020.”
It added: “The SSSC also supports the inclusion of support workers and practitioners on the Scottish Shortage Occupation List.”
Last year, Tes launched its #LetThemTeach campaign, calling for the entire teaching profession to be added to the shortage occupations list. The campaign received support from across the education system and was also backed by the Scottish government.