Ballarat's rapidly growing population, much of it concentrated in the city's west and north, is driving a multi-million dollar building boom of childcare centres and putting pressure on centres to find enough staff.
In the past six months, three large purpose-built centres, each catering for more than 100 children, have either opened or begun construction in the rapidly growing Sebastopol/Delacombe/Smythes Creek/Winter Valley corridor.
Earlier this month the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative's 100-place Perridak Burron centre opened in Ballarat East and it is believed there are other centres in planning stages across the city.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOUR SAY AT THE BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE
Brady Bunch Early Learning Centre opened their second centre this week in Smythes Creek, next to Delacombe Town Centre and less than 2km from their original centre in Sebastopol.
"Our Sebastopol service has been open three years and for that three years we've been at full capacity," said Delacombe centre director Rachel Condon. The new centre, which can accommodate 108 children across six rooms, opened on Monday with 20 children but Ms Condon expects places will fill quickly.
Most have come off the waiting list at the Sebastopol centre, while several families from Ross Creek, Smythes Creek and Smythesdale have transferred there because it is more convenient to drop off and pick up.
On the other side of DTC, on the Glenelg Highway, the 120 place Journey Early Learning Centre is due to open mid year and the company is also looking to establish a new centre in Ballarat East.
Ms Condon said most families taking inspection tours of the new Brady Bunch centre were moving from Melbourne.
"Every time we do a tour we ask where are you from and the vast majority of them are moving from Melbourne ...and their comments are that the rent is cheaper, houses are cheaper and life is cheaper here than in Melbourne, and the childcare is cheaper too," she said.
But the boom is making it hard for centres to find the right staff to care for their young charges.
This week alone there were at least five Ballarat childcare centres advertising for staff, some with multiple jobs on offer.
"It is a challenge (to find staff)," Ms Condon said. "As well it's about getting people who want to work five days. We want consistency of service, we want staff to work five days so children get the same faces every day ... but with the cost of childcare and living sometimes it's not viable for staff to work five days," she said.
IN OTHER NEWS
To ensure they had enough staff to open their second address, Brady Bunch ELC hired new employees early and overstaffed their original centre so they would be trained "in the Brady Bunch way" and ready to open the new centre.
"It meant we could hit the ground running, there were no unknowns about what we were going to do."
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAVE YOUR SAY BELOW