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5 December 2018, 19:32 | Updated: 5 December 2018, 19:37
A project to recruit more nursery staff from ethnic minorities has been launched by the Scottish Government.
The £140,000 scheme aims to increase the diversity of the early learning and childcare (ELC) workforce while attempting to recruit enough staff to deliver the near-doubling of free childcare.
It has been estimated up to 11,000 additional workers are required to achieve the Government's pledge.
Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd announced the latest funding while visiting women's group Saheliya in Edinburgh and said: "A skilled and diverse workforce is key to providing our children with high quality play and learning opportunities in their formative years.
"We are almost doubling the free provision of early learning and childcare from 600 hours per year to 1,140 hours.
"This gives us a great opportunity to increase the number of minority ethnic childcare staff and to create employment opportunities across the country.
"Working with children in these key early years of their development is incredibly rewarding and this is an exciting time to consider an ELC career."
Colin Lee, chief executive of CEMVO Scotland who are running the two-year project, said: "We are delighted to be working with the Scottish Government to work towards increasing the ethnic diversity of the ELC workforce.
"This will not only help create a more culturally rich learning environment for children from across all backgrounds but also, will help create employment opportunities for ethnic minority communities that research shows experience higher rates of unemployment and poverty."
The new scheme comes after figures revealed the capacity of childcare services in Scotland has decreased, increasing fears the Government will fall short on its pledge to expand free nursery provision for three and four-year olds, and eligible two-year olds, by August 2020.
Last year, more children enrolled in childcare but overall capacity in childcare services fell 0.2% since 2016.
The number of early learning and childcare providers also fell 2.9%, down from 9,402 in 2016 to 9,127 in 2017.
There was also been a drop of 4.3% in the number of childminders, with 243 fewer registered in 2017.