Our dedicated Training Academy has been featured on the MEN, with our Head of Training and Development Gill Mason explaining how the training academy aims to provide learners with ongoing professional development and clear training opportunities.
There’s a pertinent saying that many employers live by- that a company is only as good as its people- and these apt words are certainly at the heart of Kids Planet. The family-owned, award-winning group now has over 100 nurseries across the UK, and this expansion can be attributed in part to their comprehension of that simple philosophy: to invest in your team’s future is to invest in your company’s future too.
Recruitment and staff retention is a hot-button issue that can plague many early years education providers, as there is still a stigma attached to career progression and longevity in the sector. To Kids Planet however, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and they have always strived to tackle this unfair stereotype head on, and offer people the opportunity to build a truly rewarding career in childcare.
Since 2008, when their first nurseries opened in Warrington and Widnes, they have always recognised that critical to success is the quality of staff that are employed, the skills that they develop and their shared ethos and vision. After a decade of expansion, gaining knowledge and opening new nurseries across the UK, they were able to put their extensive experience into opening their Kids Planet Training Academy in 2018, to further this commitment to quality early years education.
Gill Mason, Head of Training and Development at Kids Planet Training Academy explained that one driving force behind opening their own training centre was to solidify their expertise into cohesive programmes, so that employees could see clear career progression, and that their ongoing training would be consistent and high quality.
“Our ambition was to create an academy that if people were to think about early years education, they’d immediately think of Kids Planet. From 14–15-year-old wanting early years work experience to apprentices then up to senior management, we want people to come on their whole career journey with us,” she said.
“What we envisaged was a model where the employer is also the trainer- what we’ve experienced before, especially as Kids Planet is nationally based, was that nurseries could have 12 different training providers delivering apprenticeships with different approaches, so the quality and experience across different sites was very varied, and sporadic.”
Because of the huge variety of training providers and the coordination involved in sorting out various qualifications across the multiple sites, Kids Planet felt as though a clearer path was needed, which became a cornerstone of the training academy’s mission statement.
“Companies have different ways of delivering training and what we wanted was a standardised approach. Our vision was to create quality, consistent training programmes for our team members so they could get the best learner journey possible,” Gill explained.
“It doesn’t matter where they are, or where they’re based, the environment should nurture training and development, and the experience should be the same.”
In 2018, the Kids Planet Training Academy first opened in Lymm Head office then later in Knutsford, Cheshire. Once the headquarters were set up in Knutsford- with satellite centres across the North West- Kids Planet have been able to put their vision into practice by providing a rich variety of learning opportunities and qualifications for people at every stage of their career. This includes traineeships for those just starting out, apprenticeships for those in full or part-time roles, and leadership programmes for those looking for further professional development, as well as teaching and assessing qualifications, higher level qualifications and sector specific awards.
From their 26 week traineeship which provides a quality work placement in one of their settings and accredited training such as paediatric first aid and safeguarding, to middle and high-level management positions at Levels 3, 4 and 5 Leadership and Management, the diverse range of choice means there’s something to help everybody develop and flourish.
This also includes those who are employed by Kids Planet but are not necessarily directly linked to the childcare roles; Kids Planet’s dedicated Chef Academy helps to train the Kids Planet chefs towards providing only the healthiest and most nutritious food to the children in their care.
“Some people might really want to enhance their practice pedagogical, early years point of view, and some might want to enhance their practice from a leadership perspective- so your progression can be based on which direction you want your journey to take,” Gill said.
“We want people to see their journey ahead of them when they start, so that recruitment and retention of staff works for everybody. When we bring people on, we want to keep them.”
Whichever qualification team members want to pursue, the training academy strives to provide the best learning environment possible; one of support and education, with a particular focus on the wellbeing of those undertaking training. The training academy also wants to enable employees to have a clear career progression mapped out for them, so they can know what to strive for, and how they can continue to better themselves.
Kids Planet have found that blending practical and academic methods of learning have proven to be effective. By both bringing people together in cohorts in their area so they can work together, and having onsite visits to see skills being applied to a workplace, people can not only learn from their tutor, but also socialise with like-minded people and share experiences.
Gill said: “It’s crucial for people to learn from each other, so that perhaps they can aspire to be like other people in the team, and have a camaraderie with each other, to lift each other up.
“We do a lot around wellbeing to ensure- particularly post-Covid when some of our younger learners felt isolated- to bring people together for that support. We have a wellbeing pack and handbook, as well as lots of other resources available for them to really feel like a cohesive group.”
Not only do Kids Planet offer this opportunity to their own team members, but they have also extended their remit to external organisations too, including nursery providers Kids Zone, to help spread their years of experience and knowledge to other early years educators, to improve the quality of childcare across the UK as a whole. According to Gill, this sharing of resources is vital to ensure that the quality of early years provision is ‘constantly improving’, which would help a career in childcare be considered all the more important, and a viable- and professional- career path.
“Part of our uniqueness is that as a training provider, we want to keep the emphasis on early years as a whole. We don’t just train Kids Planet team members, we also work with a number of external partners because we want them to benefit from our sector expertise too,” she added.
“We are trying to expand that as we’d like to become the voice of the sector. We know what challenges other providers face because we face them ourselves so it’s coming together as a group to tackle those as a collective which is important to us. As a training academy and an employer, we really do champion the sector.
“We want to change quality for the better, and push for more recognition for early years education as a fantastic career. Sometimes early years education doesn’t get the recognition it deserves as a career, so we really want to posit early years as a profession, a career and something you can have a trajectory on.”
For more information or to apply to learn with Kids Planet, please visit our Training Academy website today.