Students enrolling or enrolled in the early childhood education program (ECE) at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology or any of the other 33 programs like it across B.C. are getting new support from the province.
On April 23, Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux was at NVIT to announce the provincial government is investing $513,000 to boost the number of early childhood educators in B.C.
The funds will go to the Early Childhood Educators of BC, the province’s professional association, to establish a bursary for ECE program students and applicants.
The bursary will allow students to apply for up to $300 per course to a maximum of $1,500 per semester.
“We’re committed to increasing the number of qualified early childhood educators throughout the province,” Cadieux said at Wednesday’s announcement, noting that since 2007, the government has provided about $1.5 million to 1,300 students in ECE programs in B.C. through bursaries.
The bursary will give preference to aboriginal students, students attending an ECE program with an aboriginal focus and students working to achieve an infant/toddler education designation.
“It’s because we recognize that there is a special need for aboriginal early childhood educators that priority will be given to aboriginal students and students attending ECE programs with an aboriginal focus, much like the programs that are offered here at NVIT,” Cadieux said.
“This will help us achieve our vision of aboriginal children staying connected to their culture and traditions,” she said.
Denyse Oswald-Finch, department head for NVIT’s aboriginal early childhood education program, said many of their first-year students find work in their field between years and don’t return to school, making this bursary helpful to second-year students.
“It’ll help a lot of the second-year students stay and actually finish the second year,” she said. “I think that bursary will keep a lot students carrying on their education and finishing the two years,” Oswald-Finch said.
This year, NVIT had eight second-year students in its ECE program.
The five employees of the NVIT daycare are graduates of their program.
First-year NVIT ECE student Dayna Charters said she’s excited for her second year in the program and excited about the bursary.
“I’m going to apply,” she said.
NVIT dean John Chenoweth said financial access to education is a barrier for many people.
“By having some funding available to support students to pursue education, we all win,” Chenoweth said.
Early Childhood Educators of BC executive director Emily Mlieczko said that with this bursary, more people will be able to access education in this area.
“While there is always that demand for new childcare spaces, that demand also then requires qualified early childhood educators to care for our youngest learners,” Cadieux said.
Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart said she thinks the bursary will benefit those who choose to complete an ECE program at NVIT.