Lee worked his way up from volunteering at a nursery holiday club at 17 to securing the role of manager. Find out more about his role
How did you get your job?
I started at the age of 17 as a volunteer, I mainly helped in the Holiday Club through the summer holidays and once that finished, I was asked to help in the nursery. Apparently, I was a natural, so the manager put me on a Level 3 qualification and I have been in early years education ever since.
I worked my way up from a volunteer to the deputy. The manager at the time was also the owner, so at this point I left Tiddlers Nursery and went to manage another. Four years later I found out that the owner was selling the nursery and they now needed a manager, so I returned as the nursery manager.
Childcare is typically a female-dominated industry. Why did you decide on this career?
When I left school, early years never even came up as a discussion. My then sister-in-law worked at Tiddlers as the deputy and had asked me to come and help with the holiday club. Even then I didn't want anything to do with it but I came from a very hard-working family and my mum's words to me were 'you're not spending the next six weeks sitting at home so go and start working.' I am the perfect example of the job finding a person and not a person finding the job.
What's a typical day like as a nursery manager?
Busy. One day you can spend a lot of the time in the office answering emails and phone calls and the next I might be in a room covering a staff member off sick. The two main things with this job are never to panic - panic is like a fire and once the team see panic, they will quickly do the same, and the second is to be able to adapt at any moment because things can change very quickly.
Describe your job in 5 words.
What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
I think seeing any child develop is amazing and knowing you played a part in that is fantastic. But for me, it's getting to know the children and their families. I have always wanted the nursery to feel like an extension of a child's family. The only time you really know you have achieved this is when the child and family leave the nursery for school, but when you know you have achieved it then there is no better feeling.
What are the challenges?
There are always challenges with early years. I think everyone in the industry feels very undervalued by the government and local councils. We are constantly told that these first few years in a child's life is so important but yet the support and backing we receive is very minimal, we often feel forgotten about and underappreciated.
Luckily people do this job because they care.
What qualities are important for a career in childcare?
You only need two qualities when it comes to early years, and they are the ability to care and the ability to be able to communicate with children. Everything else can be taught or you can be trained, but you can't teach people to care or to be able to communicate with a child.
Is there are a lack of males in childcare and if so what more needs to be done to encourage more men into childcare careers?
There has always been a shortage of men in early years.
The simple fact is that working in early years never comes up as an option when young men are coming up through school and talking to career experts. I think it's very easy for a young guy to be put off because there are certain stereotypes given to men working in early years. And if I am being 100% honest, when I was asked to start my course, my parents said to me 'it's a very rewarding job, but there’s not much money in it.'
Until early years is openly discussed as an option for men, until the money issue is openly discussed, men will continue to avoid or turn away from early years.
What advice would you give to other men thinking about a career in childcare?
The opportunity to be a part of a child/family's life and be able to provide so many positive memories and opportunities for them, far out weigh any negatives. The job itself is so rewarding, get ready to laugh, cry and everything in between.