The Government of Canada and the GNWT have reached an agreement on an extension to the Canada–Northwest Territories Early Learning and Child Care Agreement.

Funding amounts to more than $10 million over four years for the NWT, which will improve access to inclusive early-learning and child-care programs and services.

In addition, a one-time investment of over $2.5 million is also being made to help support NWT’s workforce development. The agreement ensures that funding will continue to be available to support these programs until March 2025.

Aurora College is in a “prime position” to play a key role in providing high-quality early learning and child care in the NWT, according to Jeff O’Keefe, vice-president of student affairs.

“We have grown our early learning and child care (ELCC) program by expanding program delivery options and student intake and will continue to work towards doubling the program over the next three years,” he said.

As for facility upgrades, such as child-care spaces, O’Keefe believes students and staff would certainly benefit from the added support for parents and caregivers.

“Such investment in early learning and child care will, in part, lay the groundwork for a greater number of child-care spaces available across the Northwest Territories,” he said. “Moving forward, as part of the transformation into a polytechnic university, the potential expansions of Aurora College facilities and supports will be examined, including in the area of child care.”

With regards to current plans, O’Keefe touched on the new additions and planning for the foreseeable future.

“For 2021-22, we have added a new cohort starting on campus this fall and are planning for a significant increase in the number of ELCC students taking distance courses from their home communities.” said O’Keefe. “This is a significant social, economic and educational agenda, and Aurora College is planning accordingly to meet the post-secondary and professional development needs of early childhood educators in the Northwest Territories.”

Highlights of the extended agreement between the federal and territorial governments include:

– Improving access to post-secondary education programs and professional development for early childhood educators

– Distributing cultural education resources

– Ensuring health and safety in child-care centres; offsetting the cost of equipment supporting quality play-based environments

– Increasing the number of child-care spaces

“High-quality early learning and child care in the Northwest Territories is foundational to setting children up for success later in life,” Education Minister R.J. Simpson stated. “The extension of the existing Canada–Northwest Territories Early Learning and Child Care Agreement means that there will be support for early childhood educators to promote the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of children in the Northwest Territories.”

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