Careers in Early Learning and Childcare


With the expansion of funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) to 1140 hours by 2020, it is estimated that up to 11,000 additional staff will be required in the sector. There has never been a better time to embark on a career in childcare.

The additional staff will be required to fill posts at ELC centres, out of school clubs, breakfast clubs, playgroups, and holiday clubs. There are also opportunities if you would like to start your own childminding business, looking after children in your own home.

Whichever route you take, you’ll find that working with young children involves a lot of hard work, but is highly rewarding, challenging and fun! Read on to learn more about careers in ELC.

Click here to access a downloadable leaflet on careers in childcare

What to expect

As a childcare practitioner, you will be a vital part of a team of dedicated practitioners, passionate about providing high-quality, flexible ELC.  

While no two days will be exactly the same, your day is sure to be a busy one, with the opportunity to inspire and change young lives. A typical day will include: 

  • Promoting learning and positive relationships through a wide variety of child-led play opportunities and experiences including:
    • Helping the children learn more about the wider world by visiting people and places in the community
    • Going on outdoor adventures to search for minibeasts, and counting their legs (numeracy)
    • Using sensory play opportunities to begin developing literacy skills by mark making
  • Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the children in your care
  • Working with parents, partners, and other professionals to ensure the smooth running of the setting and achieve the best possible outcomes for children
  • Observing and documenting children’s development and progression.

Pay, hours and holidays

The salary for an ELC practitioner can vary from employer to employer, as well as factors such as location, qualifications, experience and the type of setting you are working at. Likewise, the hours you will work will also depend on the type of setting you are working in. Childcare centres can be open from 7 am until 6 pm. Practitioners usually work an 8-hour shift within these hours, but depending on the requirements of individual settings, longer shifts or shorter, part-time and flexible hours, are often available.

Often, practitioner positions are term-time posts, however childcare centres and holiday provision offer services all-year round. A full-time ELC practitioner employed in a childcare centre, on average, will be entitled to 28 days holiday, which will include public holidays, such as Christmas. Part-time and flexible workers will receive these holidays pro-rata. 

How to get started

There is no set path into a career in ELC, with many ways to gain experience and qualifications that can get you started in your career. 

Your starting point will depend on the level of qualifications and experience you already have. As an ELC practitioner, you are required to be registered with the SSSC, who determine the qualifications you need to achieve in order to be employed in an ELC. 

To apply for a qualified practitioner post, you will be required to hold certification in SVQ Level 3, or HNC. As an unqualified practitioner, you must be willing to work towards these qualifications.

The two main routes to gaining these qualifications are either work-based (SVQ) or college-based (HNC). Learn more on the SSSC website

If you feel, with the experience you already have, you are ready to begin your career journey in ELC, you may wish to apply to become a relief childcare practitioner on our Staffbank. You can learn more about Staffbank further down this page. 

If you feel that you need to gain some more confidence, experience and skills before applying for a position in ELC, then you may wish to consider volunteering (see below) or explore becoming an #OpeningDoors mentee.

Job Vacancies

We frequently post ELC jobs on the ‘current vacancies‘ page of our website. Keep an eye on our Facebook page to be alerted when a new vacancy is posted. 

As well as posting vacancies at CALA ELC settings, we also post vacancies from our member groups. 

Work Experience and Volunteering

We are always looking for volunteers at CALA, of all ages and from all walks of life. If you are a caring type of person who enjoys having fun and can spare 2-3 hours a week why not make a difference and try volunteering?

To get started, download your Childcare Centre Volunteer Application Pack from the CALA Website and email/send completed applications to the CALA Inverness office.
We also accommodate work experience placements for both school pupils and college students.

For further information contact our Inverness Office on 01463 222 569.

CALA Staffbank

CALA Staffbank is a part of Care and Learning Alliance and supplies relief childcare practitioners to Early Learning and Childcare centres around Highland. Working for Staffbank is perfect for people new to ELC and wishing to gain experience in a variety of settings, or for people who need the flexibility to choose their own working hours. 

Learn more about CALA Staffbank at


#Openingdoors provides mentoring and guidance to young people aged 16-24 years who are interested in a career in childcare. By providing individualised support, along with peer support and work experience, #Openingdoors aims to enable young people to progress towards, move into, or stay within employment alongside enhancing their job opportunities within the childcare workforce.

Contact Kirsty – the Mentoring Support Officer on: 07526264304 or [email protected]

Like #Openingdoors on Facebook –


The Care and Learning Alliance training team offer a number of face-to-face training events throughout the year. For more information on what we’ve got coming up, visit

As well as face-to-face training, we also offer online training through the CALA E-Learning Zone. There is a wide range of courses available, on subjects such as child protection, literacy, risk assessments, body image, healthy eating, and much more. Many of the courses are completely free, with the others costing just £10 each. To access the CALA E-Learning Zone, head to 

CALA Membership

Becoming a CALA member entitles you to a wide range of benefits. Some of these benefits include regular newsletter updates, access to free training, a discount to our annual conference, access to hundreds of templates and policies, and much more. 

To learn more about CALA Membership, visit:

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