Charity discusses benefits of early years careers partnership

ESF and Early Years Project Logos

This project is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF).

When it came to addressing issues in the early years sector, local charity West Smethwick Enterprise jumped at the chance to partner with Birmingham City University in order to make a positive difference.

Posted 07 April 2022

An early years professional helps young children during a class.

Developing knowledge and removing skills gaps

West Smethwick Enterprise, a community-based organisation offering pre-school facilities and family support services, joined forces with BCU and Newman University on the Early Years Career Progression Pathways (EYCPP) project.

EYCPP, part-funded by the European Social Fund, has been set up in order to provide students, graduates and local residents in the Greater Birmingham (GBSLEP) region with free specialist early years workshops and webinars.

It was this, as well as the project’s desire to fill skills gaps in the sector, that encouraged West Smethwick Enterprise (WSE) to jump on board.

“Skills gaps have grown over recent years,” says Laura Richmond, Director of Children Services at WSE.  

“There is a large proportion of people who don’t understand the skills required to fulfil the different roles within the sector and the expectations on practitioners have continued to grow, despite the training, pay and opportunities not growing with them.”

Alongside this, WSE noticed a desire among families to be made aware of work opportunities within the early years sector.

“Many of these people do not have the skills or knowledge to work in the sector, but we want to support these people to develop the confidence to take those first steps,” Laura says.

Providing a better understanding of the early years sector

WSE partnered with Newman and BCU to also support the early years workforce in having a better understanding of an early years worker’s role, and the key strengths and skills needed.

“We have highlighted the need for further hands-on experience to fully allow training practitioners to understand the role of a highly-skilled practitioner and what’s needed to support the children and families accessing early years provision,” Laura says.

WSE has grown considerably in recent years, now working across five different sites. However, they were keen to work with bigger organisations – like BCU – in order to learn and expand further.

“We want to filter the knowledge we learn down to our current workforce, provide and support opportunities for continuing professional development courses,” Laura explains.

New partnerships and better practice

WSE have been delighted with how the project is developing, with sessions resulting in new relationships being built and participants developing key skills.

The EYCPP project has also partnered with BCU criminology experts to help tackle unemployment in the East Birmingham area.

“We’ve been able to make new partnerships within the local community and upskill local users of the community, including parents of some of the children that attend our pre-school. It’s been very rewarding to see them develop,” Laura says.

For the future, Laura hopes that the EYCPP project will build relationships with other larger organisations and empower people to progress in their chosen careers.

WSE also credits the support of BCU in helping them develop themselves as a charity.

“We have been able to work with a variety of individuals from different backgrounds, with different skillsets, which has allowed us to reflect and develop our practice for the better,” Laura explains.

“We have valued the opportunity to develop our services and grow further, and this has been enhanced by working with Newman and BCU.”