It’s never too late to explore a career in the early years
You may have come across the term “unretirement” recently, which has been coined due to the high number of older people going back to work following their retirement. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, there are now more people aged 50 and older in work or looking for work than ever before. Its analysis shows there was an increase in economic activity (people working or looking for work) of 116,000 among the over-50s in the past year.
The cost-of-living crisis, soaring inflation and volatile financial markets are contributing to people either coming back out of retirement, or looking to increase their hours to earn more to deal with financial pressure. And one option that’s certainly worth considering is a job in the early years sector.
Bright Horizons is one of the largest nursery providers in the UK, with approximately 300 community and workplace nurseries across the UK. They’re committed to providing enriching and rewarding career opportunities to anyone looking to step into childcare. For those looking for a workplace that offers flexibility, they are certainly a good option. Sarah Ellerby, who joined Bright Horizons Clairmont as a nursery assistant in May 2022, has discovered this for herself.
Sarah said: “I went straight into the hospitality sector after leaving school, working in different roles in hotels and restaurants, including management positions. I did that for a period of about 20 years; working long hours and weekends, six-day weeks and sacrificing Christmas and New Year’s. After such a long time in that sector, I just decided I wanted to move away from it all and went back to study at the age of 30 to gain a degree in HR management. I spent a lot of the last 25 years in HR, doing all sorts of work for large companies such as Co-op and Manchester Airport.
“After the lockdown hit, I started to think about my journey so far and about what I wanted out of life; it led to me reconsidering what I was doing and deciding to take a different route. I don’t have any children of my own, but I love children and spend a lot of time with friends’ children and my husband’s grandchildren; I love doing craft activities with them, we make cards and other things for celebrations using glitter and sparkles.
“I consider myself to be in a great position that I can work part-time and was fortunate that this role popped up in my search; it’s so close to home, it’s perfect. The recruitment process was incredible; I know from working in HR how this side of things works, so having it happen so smoothly and so fast was wonderful.
“Working in the nursery also just gives you the best feeling when you walk through that door in the morning. The first thing I look forward to every day is when you walk into the room and all the children come running towards you, screaming your name, and at least one child is always coming to give you a hug. It’s just the most amazing experience, and you go home each day with such a big smile on your face; I sleep like a baby because it’s so stimulating and rewarding, you just look forward to the next morning.
“I’m working on progressing here as well; I’m still completing my initial training and have two months left before I’ll be fully qualified. After that I want to work on getting the qualification to be a nursery nurse; I’m talking with my management team Angela and Alex, as well as my training buddy Emma, about doing this, and they are all so supportive and encouraging. Alex and Angela both sent me e-cards in the first couple of months, recognising how far I’ve progressed since starting; it was such a lovely gesture and meant so much.
I’m enjoying every moment I spend in every room at the nursery. Every second with the children is rewarding as you can feel the impact you are having on them. We are preparing children for their exciting journeys ahead. Who knows what they will eventually do in the future, but being able to give them the best start and support their growth is truly amazing.”
The early years can also be a fantastic choice for those looking for a complete change. Denise Higgins, who joined Bright Horizons Fair Oak as a nursery assistant in February 2022, was looking for a new challenge and a chance to start a new journey.
Denise said: “Many years ago, I used to be a travel agent. I stepped away from it for a while when the pandemic hit and the travel industry closed, and then went back to the position in January, after everything started opening up again. After going back, I realised that something just didn’t feel right for me, and I wanted a change.
“It wasn’t exactly easy. After deciding ‘this wasn’t for me anymore’, I asked myself ‘what can I do?’, ‘what do I absolutely love?’. And for me, that’s children; I’ve got lots of my own grandchildren and being with them just made me feel so happy, so I took this opportunity to do something that I was really going to enjoy.
“After starting here at Bright Horizons, I just knew I’d made the right choice; my heart felt as if it was in the right place, you get out of bed no problem and just enjoy coming to work, which is amazing. Every day that you come to work, there is something different to enjoy; every room provides a different experience, from babies all the way up to preschool, it’s just absolutely lovely interacting with them.
“The team here are absolutely amazing; everyone here just works together to help each other when you have a question, or if you just need that extra little bit of assistance. They’ve been so supportive and encouraging during my training and early months here. Coming to work every day and enjoying what you are doing with not just the children, but the team around you as well, it’s so rewarding. Being able to work part-time as well allows me to still have the freedom to deal with my other life commitments outside of work, which is wonderful. Finding the right team, and the right place, it really makes a big difference, and now I’m at Fair Oak, I think it’s perfect for me.”
Bright Horizons offers full training for its people and currently has over 80 apprenticeships available around the UK. You can see further information about the careers available here.