Tampere updated induction and training materials for early childhood education and care

Like many other municipalities, the City of Tampere also suffers from shortages of early childhood education and care (ECEC) employees. As one solution to this problem, induction training for employees was updated. Additional aims of the update include consistent quality in early childhood education and care and provision of support for the personnel in core issues of ECEC.
Two women looking at a laptop. On their left a shelf with miscellanous items, including children's toy clock.
Minna Saijonkivi (left) ja Anne Olsson check the materials of the new induction and training program.

Anne Olsson, teacher in early childhood education teacher and coordinator of children’s culture, and three of her colleagues work as ECEC curriculum agents who support day-care centres in maintaining good quality and practices in ECEC. A year ago, a large share of the employees were substitutes, not all of whom had training in the field. 

Olsson was told that they needed information about the basic routines of day care, such as the children's mealtimes and naps. The heads of ECEC units also discussed similar needs.
- Together with Planning Officer Riikka Kiviharju, we started preparing basic teaching material on daily life at day-care centres. Last summer, we completed a guide that describes the daily life in ECEC in a nutshell. Materials completed later have included a handbook for teachers in early childhood education, Olsson explains.

Other materials have also been produced, such as those that heads of day-care centres can use in the induction training of their personnel.

Old ways of doing things persist while new education programmes are too theoretical

These much-needed guides are not only for new employees. They also support more experienced employees in following the Core curriculum for early childhood education and care and managing everyday pedagogy. 

- Today, the aim is to take a pedagogical approach to everything in the daily life of day-care centres. Another important issue is engaging the children. While the activities were very much led by the teachers in the past, nowadays we also want to see the children and their parents getting involved. 

- For example, the attitude towards food and meals has changed. Children are no longer forced to try every food they are offered. Of course, children cannot make decisions alone, but it is important to give them an experience of being able to influence things in their own lives, Olsson stresses.

Support needed for practical problems

The problems of new ECEC teachers are often very practical. For example, they need support for filling in planning and observation forms. Leading is another area where they may have a lot to learn.

- Teachers in early childhood education are responsible for the planning, evaluation and development of pedagogy in their child group, and they are not necessarily familiar with team work or leading a team in the workplace. Students’ placements are very short today, and the daily life of the day-care centre and various responsibilities associated with a teacher's work may come as a surprise when they actually start working, Olsson points out. 

Aiming for consistent ECEC quality

As the new induction programme has only been tested for six months so far, measurable results are not yet visible. Olsson notes that even if no single method can solve the recruitment problems in ECEC, she hopes that the new type of induction training will at least improve basic competence. This applies particularly to substitutes who have no training in this field.

- However, the most important aim is consistent quality in ECEC, ensuring that each unit would know what the basic quality level of early childhood education and care should be, and act accordingly. 

Good induction improves the employer image

Elli Rasimus, Director of Early Childhood Education and Care in Tampere, also notes that working life is changing ever faster. This is why special attention should also be paid to employees’ induction training.

- Receiving and providing induction training are not only a right but also a statutory obligation. It is hugely important for the new employee, but also for the employer. Research has found that good induction makes the employee feel part of the work community, and these employees also stay on in their jobs. From the perspective of employer image, it has the effect of improving both the attraction and retention of employees, Rasimus points out.

Induction training covers an extensive area. In ECEC, it includes the National core curriculum for early childhood education and care and pre-primary education, legislation, occupational safety and health and workplace rules. This is why a step-by-step approach is needed: once a new employee has mastered one step, they can move on to the next one. When the pieces then add up to a complete picture, the employee can themselves see what they need to know in order to do the job. 

During the induction training, the employee gets a grasp of their rights and obligations. For example, they learn how to respond to unprofessional behaviour or bullying.

Overview and new perspectives on the work

As a new employee is welcomed to the workplace, the expectations placed on them in their new role are also explained to them. 

- As a new employee starts, their job description is defined. Induction is about much more than just making the basic tasks clear. It allows the employee to feel that their work input is part of the whole and complements it. The employee is supported in committing to working together. They can cope with their duties and their professional approach is strengthened, which allows parents to feel that they can trust the employee, Rasimus describes.

Induction may also give new perspectives to supervisors, including heads of day-care centres. A newcomer may ask questions and even question old practices. New ideas can help develop the entire work community and often at least spark a good discussion.

Situations of change affect everyone

However, induction training is not limited to just providing guidance to newcomers. In situations of change, the entire personnel will need familiarisation.

- For example, the pre-primary curriculum will change this year, which means that all employees need to be familiarised with it, Rasimus notes.

As the supervisors play a key role in the induction of employees, the induction materials are also important for them. The matter should not be left to the supervisors alone, however. It is a good practice to assign a mentor to work with a new employee, ensuring that the newcomer has someone who helps and guides them, someone they can rely on.

Induction instils confidence in your abilities

Childminder Maiju Siitojärvi came to work at Jussinkylä ECEC unit last August and was able to benefit from the recently completed induction training. The experience was positive in all respects.
- It helped me grow professionally. The induction gave me an overview of my work and made me feel safe. I trusted myself to cope and manage the practices, no matter in which day-care centre I work, says Siitojärvi. 

Siitojärvi is a practical nurse by training, and she had no previous experience of working in early childhood education and care. Before the induction, she worked under the guidance of a more experienced employee for a few weeks.
- I already had a rough idea of what the work was all about, but the induction training gave me a much-needed theoretical basis, she says. 

Managers also benefit from the new induction training

Minna Saijonkivi, Deputy Head of Jussinkylä and Lapinniemi ECEC units, has made use of the induction training offered by the ECEC curriculum agents from the start.

- The training gets to the essence of daily life of ECEC and drills down to its practices. The university education of ECEC teachers has quite a strong focus on theory. As supervisors, we wish to combine theory with practice and this way support the delivery of high-quality early childhood education and care, she reflects.

After receiving the induction training, new employees have started to reflect on justifications for the operating practices of ECEC. According to Saijonkivi, this is one of the aims of the new training: stressing the pedagogical justifications of activities.
- We also have a large number of substitutes who have no training in the field, and they really need this type of induction, Saijonkivi stresses.

Smiling woman with eyeglasses looking at the camera. In front of her a table with toys.la hyllyillä lisää leluja.
Childminder Maiju Siitojärvi thinks that the new practice has improved her professional identity.
Text: Ismo Lehtonen
Photos: Laura Happo
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