The Bay of Plenty will start the school year with nearly 40 vacancies for early childhood teachers, as industry figures point to low pay and a downturn in trainee numbers to explain the shortage.
And while one Rotorua facility has been trying to fill a job for a year, the local polytechnic says there has been a drop in enrolments to train in the profession.
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology reported that, over the past five years, enrolments in early childhood education (ECE) qualifications had dropped 25 per cent between its Tauranga and Rotorua campuses.
There were 163 students enrolled in an early childhood course last year compared with 219 in 2015.
So far this year 49 students have enrolled in the Level 7 course of the Bachelor of Early Childhood, and 20 students for the Level 5 Diploma in Early Childhood Education.
A Toi Ohomai spokeswoman said the enrolments were still being processed for semesters one and two and these numbers were likely to increase by the end of the year.
The Education Gazette has 38 ECE vacancies listed in the Bay of Plenty as of Friday, some of which were from centres with several job openings.
The Government has listed the profession on the Immigration New Zealand skills shortage list for all regions.
A survey by National Party ECE spokeswoman Nicola Willis last August found 81.8 per cent of centres in the Bay of Plenty had difficulty finding qualified early childhood teachers in the previous 12 months.
Amazing Place Preschool on Sunset Rd in Rotorua has been looking for someone to fill a teaching position for a year.
It was one of five centres in the Bay of Plenty under the Bethlehem Early Learning Centres group.
Company manager Lorainne Schou said there were three positions open across all their centres, which had been the case for a year.
She said all the new preschools opening in the Bay of Plenty made finding staff a challenge.
"Nobody wants permanent work, the wages aren't high enough."
Schou said there was "certainly plenty of jobs out there" but people were not training for the role.
"You can't spend three, four years of your life studying just to get paid $22.50 an hour," she said.
The current staff had been rotated around the centres to work around the shortage.
"We're not just a preschool, we're not just teachers. For a lot of young families, we're their support networks ... those relationships we build are really important."
The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine policy statement said the "first 1000 days" was a rapid and crucial period of brain and organ development.
The Ole Schoolhouse Rotorua curriculum leader Eric Hollis said there was a shortage of quality teachers throughout the country, "but there always has been".
His centre had not struggled with staffing but he was aware fewer people were trying to qualify for the profession.
He said the standards for early childcare teachers were high and the training was rapidly catching up to it.
"There's a minuscule amount [of teachers] that cut the mustard."
Hollis said there were myths about a career in early childcare, including that it was glorified babysitting and a woman's job.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement Ellen MacGregor-Reid said ministry-approved recruitment agencies were working in the ECE overseas teacher market and had established relationships with pools of teachers wanting to teach in New Zealand.
"Any ECE provider in the Bay of Plenty with concerns about filling vacancies should contact our contracted recruiters."
MacGregor-Reid said there were 2400 ECE teaching staff in the Bay of Plenty and five ECE teaching vacancies listed with approved recruiters.
Teacher supply initiatives:
• Teacher supply packages are helping early learning by including a subsidy for all teachers completing the Teacher Education Refresh to get back into teaching. More than 400 early learning teachers had enrolled.
• The targeted marketing campaign aimed at lifting enrolments in initial teacher education (ITE), encouraging former teachers back to the profession, and attracting overseas-qualified teachers, also reached those considering teaching in early learning.
• The TeachNZ scholarship programme. The 2020 round of scholarships is currently open.
• The introduction of a relocation support grant for ECE. This helps with the costs associated with relocation for overseas trained and returning New Zealand teachers.
Source: Ministry of Education