The Excellence in Early Childhood Education workforce strategy is designed to keep currently working ECEs engaged and committed to the field while attracting new people to the exciting opportunities for ECEs in the province.
The strategy sets out to ensure ECEs are valued for the role they play in supporting and educating young children and reduce barriers to access to training and upskilling. Ultimately, it aims to build a strong workforce of ECEs who are professionally recognized, highly skilled, and committed to lifelong learning. 
The implementation of this strategy creates exciting opportunities for ECEs and changes that will impact the sector. One significant change is the shift from a classification system to a certification model in 2023.
ECEs and operators will be kept informed and have lots of opportunities to give advice and ask questions along the way. EECD will work with operators to ensure they can support all employees during the transition to the new model of certification. 

To support your staff in navigating upcoming changes and take advantage of training and upskilling opportunities, explore the various initiatives below and find answers to your questions about the Excellence in Early Childhood Education workforce strategy.

Accelerated ECE Diploma Programs

Free tuition and books for more than 300 Level 1 ECEs currently working to earn a diploma in a shortened timeframe while they work.

Apply now!

Funding will be available for more than 300 staff currently working in child care and pre-primary to participate in accelerated ECE Diploma program (with PLAR).
Of these seats there will be designated seats for Mi’kmaq/Indigenous peoples, Black/African Nova Scotians, Acadian/francophone Nova Scotians, and newcomers (permanent residents).
The accelerated ECE Diploma programs offered at the Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education (NSCECE), Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) and Université Sainte-Anne (USA) use a Prior Learning and Recognition (PLAR) process that is designed to reduce the time to earn a diploma from 2 years to 13 – 18 months.

Can I choose which accelerated program to apply to?

Applicants are encouraged to apply for all programs as the applications are released. The first program starts in September 2021 with others to follow in the next few months.

As there are a limited number of seats, anyone interested in applying should apply at their first opportunity to do so, to avoid disappointment. Only those who identify as equity seeking applicants can apply for a designated seat.

Will I have access to technology, and will there be support in utilizing technology online?

It is the expectation that those taking the diploma have access to internet and a computer. However, for those who do not have access to a computer, there may be an opportunity to borrow one from the training institution. More information about this process will be available from the training institution.

What is the diploma for untrained staff?

We know that that there are some people working in child care who have no training or additional barriers to training like not having their high school diploma. We plan to work with a training institution to offer a program supporting these individuals to work toward a diploma.

More details will be shared over the coming months. Applications are now open for the accelerated ECE Diploma Program (with PLAR) at NSCECE and USA

I am currently taking the Level 1 program but do not complete until next year – will there be other options for me to take the accelerated diploma?

EECD expects to continue working with individuals without training or with a Level 1 over the next 2 years to ensure that as many individuals are trained as possible. Details about additional opportunities will be available in early 2022.

Can I choose which courses I take and when?

This varies by program. Most programs will be moving in a cohort format meaning that all courses are taken at the same time and students will move through the program together. However, there could be situations where this is not the case, so it is best to check the formats with the training institution.

Will I have to take time off work to complete practicum?

No, because you will be completing it in your current workplace.

What is the Indigenous Accelerated Program?

Nova Scotia Community College will be offering the ECE Accelerated Program in an Indigenous focused learning environment for Mi’kmaq/Indigenous students. Students will be guided by community Elders while completing a program focused on Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing in the context of early learning and care.

I participated in the accelerated program at NSCECE last year. Can I seek reimbursement for that program now that you are offering free programs?

EECD cannot offer reimbursement for programs in the past. The programs announced that are funded this year are for one year only and part of the Government of Canada’s early learning and child care workforce funding.

Can my workplace experiences be completed at my current place of employment?

Yes. To be eligible to apply, you must be currently working as an ECE and have your employer’s support to complete the practical learning experiences in your workplace (child care centre or pre-primary program).

Will my employer have to do anything during this process?

Your employer will have the important role of supporting and mentoring you in your education journey. It is strongly encouraged that all individuals looking to earn their diplomas have conversations with their employers about their education and career goals.

Your centre directors and Pre-Primary Leads/Managers are well versed in the field of early childhood education and can be great mentors and support systems throughout your program.

When will I know and how will I know if I have been accepted?

EECD will follow up with applicants to let them know if they meet the eligibility requirements. The educational institution will then contact those eligible and give instructions for applying for admission to the institution.

What is an accelerated diploma program?

Accelerated programs closely assess participants’ current knowledge and skills and give them credit for what they already know.

This process is called Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) and allows participants to take fewer courses to obtain a diploma as their course work focuses specifically on the gaps in their knowledge.

Courses are designed to be taken while students are working (online outside of work hours) and required practicums are completed in their workplace.

Do I have to be working full time to apply to an accelerated ECE diploma program?

You must be working at least 15 hours a week throughout the duration of the program.

Why are accelerated programs only available to those working in licensed child care or pre-primary?

We wanted to ensure that those who already work in early learning and care, who have chosen this profession are given all the support they can get to earn their diploma. We want to invest in the individuals who are already supporting our children in early learning and care.

What is the Africentric Accelerated Program?

Nova Scotia Community College will be offering the ECE Accelerated Program in an Africentric learning environment for Black/African Nova Scotian students. Students will be supported by Black/African Nova Scotian faculty and mentors.

How do I apply for an accelerated ECE Diploma program?

Applications will open on July 12, 2021 for the accelerated programs at Université Sainte-Anne and Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education. There will be 60 new seats available in September at the Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education and 25 at Université Sainte-Anne.

As an employer if my staff needs time off for courses or practicum, will I receive any financial support for costs associated with substitutes?

Students should not need any time off. They will complete practical learning experiences in their workplace and do coursework after hours on their own time.

Why are you supporting accelerated ECE diplomas?

We want to ensure as many people as possible have diplomas in early childhood education. As we move to a certification model with clearly defined roles/responsibilities and scope of practice for ECEs, we are giving anyone who wants to become certified as an ECE the opportunity to do so.

Those who are untrained or with a Level 1 classification will have a new scope of practice in 2023 when certification is introduced. Accelerated programs give them the chance to earn their diploma to become an ECE before the new certification system comes into effect.

What is the cost for a student studying in an accelerated ECE Diploma program?

All tuition, books and any other costs charged by the institution are covered through this program.

How many spaces are available for this program?

Overall, there are more than 300 spaces anticipated over the next year.

  • 60 new seats in September at the Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education with priority seats given to those who self-identify as newcomers (permanent residents)
  • 25 seats at Université Sainte-Anne
  • 215+ seats at Nova Scotia Community College, including 25 for Black/African Nova Scotians and 25 for Mi’kmaq/Indigenous

Advanced Practitioner Program

ECCD is working with partner training institutions to design a post-graduate in-service certificate program for qualified ECEs to specialize and advance their knowledge and competence in a particular area of practice in early childhood education. Learn more.

The Advanced Practitioner program is designed to be a post graduate in-service certificate program that will allow qualified ECEs to specialize and advance their knowledge and competence in a particular area of practice, such as infant and toddler learning and care, outdoor play, or pedagogical leadership.

How much will the advanced certificate cost?

At this time, a fee structure has not yet been set. There will be a cost, as this is a rigorous post diploma certificate. It is expected that a portion of the cost will be eligible for reimbursement through the Continuing Education program.

I have a certificate in Inclusion can I use that towards the advanced practitioner program?

These certificates will be stand-alone programs and will not assess prior learning in the application process.

Where will these be offered?

The certificate programs will be delivered online, which will ensure that ECEs from across Nova Scotia are able to access the programs.

Online delivery will also allow students to study and take the courses from their own home. Practical learning experiences will be embedded into the ECEs’ current workplace. It is important to note that there will only be a limited number of individuals with experience and expertise accepted into these post diploma programs.

More details on the Advanced Practitioner Program will be available in late 2021 or early 2022.

Can I get funding to take these certificates?

We plan to offer certificates in areas that are considered “priority areas for the department” as part of a pilot in 2022-23. Participants in the pilot program will be eligible for bursaries for the first cohort.

After that, participants will be expected to pay for the certificates. However, we do expect a portion of the costs to be eligible for reimbursement through the Continuing Education Program.

Will I get paid more if I complete the certificates?

Certificates will be considered advanced training and will be included in the compensation framework for ECEs working in regulated child care. It is anticipated that if an educator is working in an area directly related to their advanced training they will be paid accordingly.

Do I have to have a diploma in order to take these courses?

Yes, a diploma or degree in early childhood education will be a pre-requisite.

How can I apply for the specialized certificates?

The program is still in the early stages of development. As it is further developed, more information will be available on the program and how to apply. Information will be posted on the Excellence in Early Childhood Education web page.

Bursaries for Diploma/Degree Students

One-time bursaries for up to 300 students currently enrolled full time in an ECE diploma or degree program in Nova Scotia. Learn how to apply for a bursary of up to $3,250, or $7,500 for students in one of six equity seeking groups. Applications closed October 31, 2021.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD) is providing 300 students currently enrolled in full-time ECE diploma programs in Nova Scotia with a one-time bursary of $3,250 in the 2021–22 academic year.
There will also be funds for up to 25 students enrolled full-time at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Child and Youth Study program (Bachelor of Applied Arts) with an emphasis on early childhood education.
To support Nova Scotia’s focus on the development of a diverse and inclusive workforce, students in the following designated groups will be eligible for $7,500 in assistance:
  • Mi’kmaq/Indigenous,
  • Black/African Nova Scotian,
  • Another racially visible group,
  • Acadian/francophone,
  • Persons with disabilities,
  • 2SLGBTQ+,
  • and Newcomer.

Contact and Assistance Information
For information about the application process, please contact your post-secondary institution.
For general information about the bursary, please email us at:

Can I apply to continuing education to cover the cost of the courses not covered through this funding support program?

The Continuing Education Program is available for students who are studying part-time while they work. The bursary program is for full-time students.

How will funds be distributed and what can the bursary money be used for?

Payments will be issued to the training institution on behalf of successful applicants in late January 2022, once the student’s fall academic standing has been confirmed by their training institution and after the deadline to withdraw from the winter 2022 term.

The training institution will apply the bursary to each successful student’s account.

How can I apply if I belong to one of the designated equity-deserving groups?

Individuals who identify as Mi’kmaq/Indigenous, Black/African Nova Scotian, another racially visible group, Acadian/francophone, persons with disabilities, 2SLGBTQ+, or newcomer will self-identify during the application process.

How can I apply for the bursary?

Students must apply directly through their post-secondary institution. Please contact your institution for bursary terms and conditions, and application instructions and deadlines.

Who is eligible for this one-time bursary?

To be eligible for the bursary, individuals must meet all the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled as a full-time* student in an ECE diploma program at one of the approved training institutions in Nova Scotia:
    • CBBC Career College,
    • Island Career Academy,
    • Jane Norman College,
    • Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education,
    • Université Sainte-Anne,
    • Nova Scotia Community College,
    • Be enrolled full-time in the Bachelor of Applied Arts, Child and Youth Study degree program at Mount Saint Vincent University
  • Complete the fall 2021 term in good academic standing and enroll in the winter 2022 term
  • Be a resident of Nova Scotia (temporary foreign workers, international students, or any other person in Canada on a temporary resident visa do not qualify)
  • Submit a Bursary Application form to their training institution

The following students are not eligible to apply: 

  • Students currently enrolled in an ECE diploma or degree program already funded by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD), and
  • Students who are currently receiving other EECD funding 

*Full-time enrollment is defined by the post-secondary institution.

Career Navigation

EECD is partnering with Nova Scotia Works to establish career professionals to support and guide ECEs in their career path. Learn more.

Career Navigation will be available to all ECEs currently working in child care or pre-primary looking to participate in one of our Pathways to Education opportunities.
Career assistance will be provided virtually and will support career decision making for ECE’s interested in furthering their studies. This will help ECEs develop a career path, establish learning plans, support them in the application process, and be available to students while they study.

Who can benefit from Career Navigation?

All ECEs working in child care and pre-primary can benefit over the next few years from this free service which will help them identify their education and career goals.

Career Navigation will be available to all ECEs currently working in child care or pre-primary looking to participate in one of our Pathways to Education opportunities. ECEs can work with a Career Professional to develop a career path, establish learning plans, and access support throughout the application process and while studying.

Do I have to participate in this process?

Participation is optional but strongly encouraged.

How can I access Career Navigation?

Nova Scotia will be announcing the details of the career navigation services by mid-August. We will send a memo to all employers with details, post information on our website and share details through the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Nova Scotia.

Is there is a cost for Career Navigation?

No there is no cost.

Is this available to everyone or just students thinking about a career in ECE?

At this time participation is open to those working in child care, family home care, the Pre-primary Program or registered in a diploma or degree related to early childhood education. We hope to expand the program in the future.

Continuing Education Fund

Nova scotia will continue to provide the existing Continuing Education Fund to eligible part-time students pursuing diploma and advanced practitioner courses. Apply now.

The Continuing Education Program will be adjusted to make it more accessible for part-time students pursuing diploma and advanced practitioner courses and to ensure it continues to meet the needs of today’s students.

What changes will be made to the Continuing Education program?

Nova Scotia and Canada continue to invest significantly in the ECE workforce and to ensure that training opportunities are available with as few barriers as possible. We will continue to refine the continuing education program to ensure we are supporting NS ECEs in their pursuit of further education including the Advanced Practitioner Program.

Any updates of changes to the program will be shared on the EECD website.

What will Continuing Education cover?

Information about the Continuing Education program can be found online at:

It is expected that there will be changes to the Continuing Education Program in the months ahead. Any changes will be posted on the EECD website.

Who is eligible for Continuing Education funding?

Applicants must be currently working with children or families in a regulated child care program or Pre-primary program, while studying part-time to be eligible for Continuing Education reimbursement

Will continuing education cover the cost of certificates through the advanced practitioner program?

As the advanced practitioner programs will be new, EECD will pay for the first 100 individuals to enroll in the pilot programs as we evaluate and determine their success. Following the pilot, it is expected that individuals will pay program costs and that some of those costs will be eligible for reimbursement through the continuing education fund.

Early Childhood Educator Certification

Nova Scotia is shifting from a classification to a certification system that will define the competencies and scope of practice of ECEs with different levels of training. Learn more.

By 2023, Nova Scotia will take the first step toward professional recognition by introducing a regulated certification process for ECEs in the province.
We will define competencies and scope of practice for ECEs and introduce new certification categories for ECE assistants and advanced practitioners in early childhood education.

I hold a Level 1 classification. What options are available to me?

Anyone holding a Level 1 classification and currently working in early learning settings may apply for financial support until 2023 if they are interested in earning their early childhood education diploma or degree.

What other professions are certified?

Other types of professions that use certification include counselling, nursing, speech language pathology, social work and many others.

I understand my role may change if I decide not to get my diploma but what about my pay?

ECE’s who work in regulated child care will continue to receive their wages based on the pay scale which is currently $15 per hour for a Level 1, $17 per hour for a Level 2, and $19 per hour for a Level 3.

We expect those rates to change once the work on the compensation framework is complete.

If your scope of practice changes due to your decision to not get a diploma and you do not work in a unionized workplace, please discuss the impact on your pay with your employer. If your terms and conditions of employment are governed by a collective agreement, the employers will have discussions with the relevant unions on the impact of this on pay.

Will I lose my job if I decide not to get my diploma?

No, you will not lose your job if you decide not to get your diploma. However, once we move to a certification model, your scope of practice could change depending on the role you are in now and your academic credentials and experience.

For example, if you hold a Level 1, you will become an ECE Assistant which means you will be supporting a lead educator in a classroom setting, not co-teaching or leading the teaching in a classroom. That is why it is important that you speak with career navigators to understand your current and future options.

What will the certification designations be?

We know that the certification system will focus on the Early Childhood Educator (ECE) and include a new role called Early Childhood Educator Assistant (ECEA). The ECEA (which is the current Level 1 classification) will have a specific scope of practice, competencies and skillset that are designed to support ECEs with a post-secondary diploma or degree in ECE.

EECD will be working with an external consultant to develop the full ECE certification system, including standards, scope of practice and required knowledge/skillset for each role in the model.

I’m an employer. How will this impact me?

ECEs and operators will be kept informed and have lots of opportunities to give advice and ask questions along the way. EECD will work with operators to ensure that they can maintain their staffing complements and support all employees during the transition to the new model of certification.

How many early learning and child care programs are unionized in NS?

There are 15 unionized licensed child care centres across the province and ECEs working in several Pre-primary programs also belong to a union.

Will ECEs and ECEAs be required to complete post-secondary training and a full certification process to be recognized as trained?

EECD will work closely with our post-secondary ECE training institutions to ensure that the programs of study for ECEs and ECEAs are closely aligned with the certification process and that certificate, diploma and degree programs are easily recognized and relevant to the certification process.

What do these changes mean to my collective agreement?

Your union will continue to negotiate your collective agreement on your behalf with your employer. As this process unfolds, we will communicate with you, stakeholders and partners so that everyone is aware of the timelines and details of this work. There will also be opportunities for engagement with key stakeholder and partners throughout this process.

I am an employer and I can’t find trained ECEs. Can I still hire people who are untrained?

Like the current process, there will be an option for employers who have difficulty finding trained staff to request a temporary staffing plan that enables them to hire someone who is in the process of completing training.

There will continue to be full-time and part-time options to engage in ECEA training and to earn a degree or a diploma in early childhood education as well as financial support to make it affordable.

To ensure our child care centres reflect our community, there will be designated seats for Nova Scotians who identify as Mi’kmaq/Indigenous, Black/African Nova Scotian, newcomer (permanent residents) and Acadian/francophone.

Will ECEs be compensated based on their certification?

Through the workforce development initiative, EECD will conduct a compensation review for ECEs working in licensed child care and it is anticipated that recommendations will be made for redesigning current grant structures to reflec the new system and professionalization of the field.

What is certification?

Certification is a process that allows individuals who have completed required post-secondary training to be recognized as professionals in a certain field. Certification provides assurance to employers and the public of an individual’s professional competence, commitment, and specialized skills.

I don’t want to be an ECE Assistant. What can I do?

There will be several options to work towards a diploma or degree in ECE. We want to ensure as many people as possible have diplomas in early childhood education.

As we move to a certification model with clearly defined roles/responsibilities and scope of practice for ECEs, we are giving anyone who wants to be an ECE the opportunity to do so. Another option is recognition of prior learning (RPL).

RPL provides an alternative method for individuals with work experience in the field of early childhood education to demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills required to be an ECE.

Will government be issuing proof of certification or an outside professional body?

The government will be issuing the proof of certification once the system is established.

What new opportunities will be available for me if I obtain a degree or a diploma?

Ultimately, Nova Scotia wants to be the leader in early childhood education, and in the long-term support every ECE to have a degree or a diploma. You will be the mentors and leaders in the field, with more responsibility and a higher income. There will also be opportunities for you to become advanced practitioners.

Professional Development

Nova Scotia is developing a new approach to professional development to to ensure ECEs continue to grow and learn throughout their career. Learn More.

Nova Scotia is currently developing a model that will support professional development for ECEs in the future.
This new approach to professional development will centre around three key areas: Foundational professional development for ECEs, continuous professional learning, and the Advanced Practitioner program.

Will EECD pay for my PD courses?

EECD will continue to provide professional development opportunities for ECEs. ECEs may choose to take other PD courses as part of their own professional growth which would be a cost to them.

Will it be mandatory to take specific professional development to work as an ECE?

Yes, there will be mandatory PD for ECEs working in regulated child care settings, which will be related to provincial initiatives such as the Early Learning Curriculum Framework, Pyramid Model, Duty to Report protocols, etc.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

Nova Scotia will support up to 60 ECEs to reduce the overall costs of participation in this initiative that leads to a Level 2 classification for successful candidates. Learn how to apply.

Nova Scotia will continue to eliminate barriers for ECEs who are interested in the RPL process by helping to reduce the cost of the RPL process.
Recognized Prior Learning (RPL) is the process used to identify, document, assess and recognize existing skills and knowledge.
Recognition is the process by which a person’s existing skills and knowledge, regardless of how they have been acquired, are credited towards the achievement of units of competency for various qualifications, certifications, or accredited courses. Completion of the RPL is not an ECE diploma.

How long will this program continue to be supported by the department?

The RPL program is one of the many ways that EECD is committed to supporting the workforce now and in the future. We will continue to examine all our initiatives and ensure they are meeting the needs of ECEs.

How much does RPL cost?

The total cost, including application, exam and interview fees are $3,050.95. EECD is providing $744 for the first 60 applicants annually, bringing the cost to $2,306.95.

The program is expensive, and I am not able to pay for this program. Are there supports available to cover the cost of the program?

Yes. to help reduce the cost to participate, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is pleased to provide funds to cover part of the application/eligibility assessment and exam fees to reduce the overall costs by $744 for the first 60 applicants of 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Applicants must be currently working in regulated child care or Family Home Day Care, licensed by the Province of Nova Scotia or a Pre-primary Program.

Additionally, Labour and Advanced Education has provided funding to Opportunity Place Career Resource Centre to launch a new outreach and connection program – the Pathways to Prosperity Project – that supports qualifying ECEs to successfully complete the RPL program.

The Pathways to Prosperity Project provides financial support, and essential training and skill development customized to the RPL program.

For more information, contact the Pathways to Prosperity project coordinator by email at

How can I apply for RPL?

Information about the program, including how to apply, can be found online here: