The City of Williams Lake’s economic development office is preparing a report outlining the needs for childcare in the community. (Black Press File Photo)

Williams Lake developing plan to address early childhood labour force shortage

City’s economic development officer working on plan with local stakeholders

The City of Williams Lake is proposing the provincial government implement a minimum $25 hourly wage for early childhood educators in B.C.

The proposal is part of a resolution that economic development officer Beth Veenkamp is hoping the City will submit for consideration at the North Central Local Government Association Conference taking place May 13 to 15, 2020.

The deadline for submitting resolutions is March 13.

During the committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, March 3, council received a report from Veenkamp, outlining two proposed resolutions, both citing the $25 hourly rate, and suggesting the province divert funds from the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Community Child Care Space Creation Program to address the challenge of a lagging labour force in the child care sector to achieve the pay increase.

Veenkamp and Laurie Walters, manager of a hiring initiative, have been meeting with representatives from the early childhood sector to address the childcare space shortage in Williams Lake.

Back in November 2019, a delegation came to a council meeting to alert the community on how the lack of childcare spaces is impacting the local economy and labour force.

Read more: Williams Lake families hurting from lack of available childcare spaces: Bond

“One of the most notable parts of their presentation was that there are currently childcare spaces in facilities, but they do not have qualified ECEs to work,” Veenkamp noted in her report. “They cited low wages in the sector as a deterrent to keeping people in the field and attracting people to take ECE education.”

Irene Willsie, executive director of the Women’s Contact Society, attended the committee of the whole meeting and said it is encouraging to see the support from the City.

“We are feeling very appreciative that, not only that you are advocating on our behalf, but childcare is being given the respect that it deserves, and has long deserved in the community and I think it’s foundational,” Willsie said. “I think there is a strong tie between really good early childhood care and education to crime reduction.”

Veenkamp said they have another meeting next week and will be presenting the whole childcare plan at the council meeting on March 24.

The completion of the Williams Lake Child Care Plan is the first step in accessing resources through the provincial government, either directly through the municipality as an aid for other non-government associations applying for funds, Veenkamp noted, adding there is currently $3 million available per community to create new facilities for children.

Council will give final approval to the resolution at its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 10.

Read more: Lakecity residents asked to shape future of child care in the city through survey

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