When the second hard Covid lockdown hit NSW in 2020, Karen was working in a management role for a large childcare organisation, overseeing 22 childcare centres, and travelling regularly to do her job.
She was spending long hours on the road, longer hours in the office at her desk, and while she loved the opportunity to help support the industry, she’d gone from the frontlines, leading and managing centres, to team meetings with directors.
“I wanted something different and new,” Karen says. “I still wanted to give back to the industry, but in a way that I could have more direct impact and share some of what I have learned in my 20 years across various childcare roles.”
Mid-pandemic, Karen did what few others did, and quit her secure, corporate job in search of something more. She took up study, and in achieving her Certification in Training and Assessment, she learned how to effectively share her years of knowledge in a way that would be helpful and truly powerful.
Having worked alongside METS in an earlier Childcare Association of Australia role, Karen knew of its strong history, training programs and the opportunities it offered to students.
She started as a METS Childcare Services Trainer and Assessor in October of 2021, bringing with her extensive expertise and unbridled passion. In this role, she took on management of the Central Coast, Hunter and surrounding areas, working with students to facilitate engaging and practical education.
“I started small, with nine students,” she explains, “and I was paired up with the previous trainer so I could bounce off her and refer to her when I needed to. Every few months, all the METS trainers get together online for a collaborative and engaging session, and I’m really looking forward to becoming part of this broader network.”
As part of her role with METS, Karen is still out on the road – but in her local area – and though she becomes a trusted associate of directors, her visits are in the thick of centres, observing as her students bring their learning to life.
“Most of my interactions with centres in my last job were with directors, but now I sit in childcare rooms with my students, seeing how they apply what they’ve learned in a practical setting. I provide them feedback and guidance and reassure them if they need to work through challenges, so they become confident and competent.”
“Recently, I was in one centre and one of the little girls took a particular liking to me and an interest in my work. At nap time, she made a special point of ensuring her mattress was right behind where I was sitting, so she could see me and keep an eye on what I was doing. I enjoy being able to have that interaction with the children again.”
“I also really love being immersed in the environment, being in new places, new centres and seeing different ways people do things.”
A big part of what Karen, and any trainer in childcare does, is building relationships with their students and the centres they work in. They work one-on-one with each student to answer their questions and to help them through each and every module of training, ensuring they are successful, and guiding them in their career.
“Working this closely with students and centres you can really identify those people who will become leaders, and also those you are going to need some extra support and guidance. And these can be really valuable insights for centre directors.”
“I like seeing students come to an understanding of why they are doing something, not just that they have to do it, but that there is a real reason and purpose for everything they do. Seeing students just get it – I really love that – it’s a privileged position to be in!”
“I work as a trainer, because I want to give back to the industry that has given so much to me. Currently most of my students are women, and while I’m really looking forward to new students, as someone who has had the benefit of strong, female mentors, I like the opportunity to empower the next generation of women.”
When Karen first started in childcare herself, training was different than it is now. Undertaking very structured, classroom-based learning, most students had the opportunity to apply their new knowledge only in prac sessions a few times each year.
“I remember one lesson where the teacher came in and just stuck up pages of notes on a projector and we had to copy them down word-for-word as our own notes, then go home and learn it for an exam.”
“I was lucky because I also worked part-time in a childcare centre, so could get help from my director. A lot of others in my class didn’t have that opportunity. Learning for childcare workers is so much more integrated now and it’s so much better.”
But the opportunity to deliver better training and see students grow into excellent childcare professionals was not all Karen gained from her change in job.
“In taking on this role, I also took back some other parts of my life. Until Covid, my husband and I were living in Sydney, but the role with METS gave us the opportunity to make a move to the Central Coast and embrace a lifestyle change. Now, as a I mark assessments, I look out over beautiful Lake Macquarie and look forward to a weekend on the beach or cruising the lake on our boat.”
“When working in my last role, I guess I neglected my health a bit, but with this role, I am able to work part-time, and I have the flexibility to largely choose my hours and arrange my centre visits and working schedule to suit a balanced life. Now, I really enjoy yoga, Pilates and aqua fitness. I can look after myself and my health, as well as looking after my students.”
At METS, we strongly believe that happier people enjoy their jobs more and provide better services to our valuable clients.
By providing flexibility and a strong level of self-management, combined with support and a solid network, we enable our people to excel, which in turn, empowers our students to succeed.