More people are making a mid-career switch to become pre-school teachers, amid greater efforts to attract and retain such staff.
The enrolment in a programme for such mid-career entrants jumped 40 per cent last year from the year before, to hit almost 400 trainees. Total enrolment has reached more than 2,300 since the scheme started in 2009.
The figures for the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) for Pre-school Teachers were revealed by Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo yesterday.
This comes amid growing manpower needs in the pre-school sector, which has about 16,000 educators, and needs 4,000 more by 2020.
The programme can train about 450 people each year. It lasts eight to 18 months and operates on a place-and-train basis, in which participants undergo training while working and earning a salary.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to a My First Skool childcare centre in Toa Payoh, Mrs Teo said the rise in enrolment is likely due to greater awareness of career opportunities and improved career prospects in the pre-school sector.
For instance, a structured guide to help educators chart their career progression, spelling out career pathways and the skills required for job roles, was launched last year.
Mrs Teo said: "As far as employers are concerned, the funding support from the Government (for the PCP) is also quite generous."
Participants' employers can get funding support of 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the participants' monthly pay for the duration of the programme. Grants to cover course fees are also available.
Mrs Teo said the programme has helped to meet about 20 per cent of the growing manpower needs in the pre-school sector. "If there is demand from operators and Singaporeans who want to come into the sector, I think we have room to expand the training capacity."
Dr Kok Siat Yeow, deputy director for programmes at Seed Institute, one of the training providers for the PCP, said most of its participants are in their 20s to 40s.
Close to three-quarters of them have a diploma as their highest qualification, and close to a quarter have a bachelor's or master's degree, she said.
Meanwhile, when asked if the low pay made it harder to attract teachers, Mrs Teo said pay is but one of various factors considered by mid-career entrants.
Pre-school teachers earn an average of $2,200 to $3,000 a month, based on data gathered by the Government in 2015.
Mrs Teo said: "For the vast majority of them, the main motivator is that they get to work with children, and they enjoy that."
That was the case for Ms Dinah Tiah, 45, who joined the PCP in 2012 after close to 18 years in the public service.
Over five years, she rose up the ranks and is now acting deputy centre lead of My First Skool @ Tampines.
"The joy of working with young children and being able to have a positive impact on them in their early years motivate me," she said.