5 questions with Lucy Davidson

Lucy headshot.jpg

Based in Melbourne, Australia, Lucy Davidson is the CEO of Future Tracks, a new social enterprise designed to attract and support the next generation of early childhood teachers by providing strong career pathways, mentoring and leadership opportunities to students while they complete a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Lucy also serves on Capita’s Board of Directors.

Joe Waters: Lucy, tell us more about Future Tracks.

Lucy Davidson: Future Tracks is a new social enterprise committed to improving outcomes for young children.

As in America, the important role that early childhood teachers and educators play in positively shaping a child’s learning is not well understood. The broader community don’t really understand what teachers do, or that you need a bachelor’s qualification to lead a kindergarten program. This contributes to the lack of people, in particular young people, wanting to pursue early childhood teaching degrees and careers.

Future Tracks is trying to change this. We are attracting and supporting the next generation of early childhood teachers and leaders, while also building community awareness on the importance of the first five years and the important role teachers play. We’re doing this because we know that quality teaching has an enormous impact on the quality of early childhood programs and children’s progress.

We are partnering with universities to offer an ‘earn and learn’ pathway to undergraduates studying to become early childhood teachers, as well as an innovative ‘upskill’ program for those with a diploma. In addition to guaranteeing students a job while they study, Future Tracks offers access to quality, trained mentors and leadership programs to ensure students become great teachers, supporting all young children to flourish and reach their potential.

Future Tracks is a first of its kind in Australia, and I’m really excited about the progress we have made so far and our potential to have a positive impact on early childhood teachers and the children and families they serve.

JW: Future Tracks is making a big bet on the importance of early childhood education jobs in the future. What makes you confident that caring for young children will be such a hot job in the future?

LD: Yes we are! There are several things that make me confident that caring for and educating young children will continue to be an important profession into the future.

While robots can replace many of the things that humans do today, they can’t do the things that make us inherently human — like showing empathy, creativity and kindness, or communicating in a way that supports nurturing and language rich relationships. These skills are highly valued in caring and education professions and are very hard for robots to replicate.

These skills (and many more!) are critical for early childhood teachers.

Today, people are Increasingly looking for job satisfaction and fulfilment as one of the key factors when choosing a career. We now know the years between 0–5 offer a unique window to accelerate the development of children’s abilities. The foundations of good communication, literacy, reasoning and problem-solving skills are laid in the early years — and the impact lasts a lifetime. That equals real job satisfaction, and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?!

Additionally, we’re at an exciting time where governments around Australia are starting to recognise the importance of the early years and are investing in the quality of education and the teachers and educators who support it. As this recognition grows, the perception of early childhood teaching and the value it brings to Australia’s social and economic landscape will be better understood. Future Tracks plays a key role in growing this understanding and reframing the value proposition for early childhood teachers.

I’m confident these factors will ensure teaching young children becomes a more sort after and satisfying career and will only grow in popularity.

JW: What are you interested in that most people aren’t and should be?

LD: The changing nature of work is going to have enormous consequences for our education system, social security and health systems — but Australian governments and businesses don’t seem to be investing enough in this space. We need to be thinking deeply about how we prepare children not just to compete but to flourish in the changing economy.

A well-educated workforce is essential to support a strong economy. Business needs people who know how to learn. It’s possible to train people in new programs and contexts, but without teams that have the fundamental ability to learn and re-learn, innovation, productivity and efficiency will suffer.

Research suggests that today’s children will have up to seven career changes in their life and 65% of children entering primary school today will end up in jobs that don’t exist yet. That means the skills of adaptability, creativity and a love of learning will be more important than ever.

We need considered and long term investments in the early years, not just in education but also in health and housing, to ensure that children and families have the structures and support systems they need to thrive in a changing and uncertain world.

JW: What is one book we should read, podcast we should listen to, or piece of art we should encounter to better understand the experience of childhood today?

LD: This is a tricky question. I’m not sure if this can be considered art, but I recently saw Christopher Robin, the latest film about Winnie the Pooh. The film is mostly focused on the relationship between Christopher and Pooh, but it also highlights the importance and power of imaginative play. Although it is set in post-war England, the parallels to the experience of children today are strong. Madeline, Christopher’s young daughter, is constantly striving to impress her father and be better, smarter and more driven than any other child. She doesn’t allow time for reading fiction books let alone playing games.

Through the wisdom of Pooh and his friends, the film weaves together the wonder of childhood and the importance and joy that imaginative friends and play can bring, showing Christopher and Madeline that slowing down and spending time with family and friends is the essence of happiness. As Pooh says ‘Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.’

JW: What’s a project you’ve dreamed about, but haven’t started yet?

LD: Where to start? I have lots of these. One of the projects that I want to get off the ground is a combined early childhood education and allied health degree. Early intervention is critical to ensuring that all children get the best start in life, but teachers aren’t often in trained in or supported to identify developmental delays in young children. A combined best practice early childhood teaching and allied health degree would skill graduates both in practice and pedagogy but also in identifying and addressing developmental delay and disability in young children.