As per the Pobal Sector Profile Report 2018/2019, 25% of the staff who work directly with children in early learning and care services hold a qualification at least at Level 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications. On this basis and considering that the maximum amount of funding available under the most recent Learner Fund bursary in 2019 was €750 per practitioner completing a degree, a further €7.1 million of spending on the Learner Fund would be required if a further 35% of the staff working directly with children (approx. 9,400 practitioners) were to complete a Level 7 or 8 qualification, to achieve a 60% graduate-led workforce. However, this cost does not represent the full cost of achieving a 60% graduate-led workforce, as my Department only part-funds early learning and care practitioners to complete a higher qualification through the Learner Fund. The full cost is significantly higher, with the majority of the cost being borne by the practitioners themselves. To achieve a graduate-led workforce may therefore require a wider range of supports for practitioners, including additional financial support.
Furthermore, each year a proportion of the workforce leaves the sector, and to maintain a graduate-led workforce would therefore requiring ongoing investment.
Work began in 2019 to develop a Workforce Development Plan, which will set out plans for how to achieve commitments in First 5 (the Whole-of-Government Strategy for Babies, Young Children and their Families), including the commitment to achieve a graduate-led workforce by 2028, with 50% of staff qualified to degree level. It is anticipated that an interim report will be published in 2020, and a final report in 2021.