Sonia Graham (R) with her apprentice Michaela McCormack
Jill Farmer (Dobson)

Member Article

Entrepreneur celebrates as childcare business expands

Business is booming for a South Tyneside entrepreneur who is already taking on her second employee since starting her business just 18 months ago.

Sonia Graham who was formerly an information officer at a college, set up Village Childcare in 2011, in Cleadon Village, after retraining with North East Childcare Training to become a childminder.

Sonia, who was a fulltime mother for 10 years, gained a Level 3 Diploma in Children and Young Peoples’ Workforce through an online course and has never looked back. She went on to convert part of her home into a large playroom and within eight months of starting out she had a waiting list for pre-school places.

The demand for her services allowed her to take on an assistant childminder and she has now employed another apprentice.

Sonia believes the success she’s had so far is because many parents want a ‘half-way house’ between a nursery and a lone-working childminder.

She said: “Retraining to be a childminder was a great move for me. Doing the course online meant I could fit it around my busy family life and the job also complements my home life routine. The support I received from my training adviser has been invaluable.

“Both of my staff were unemployed before I took them on so I feel very proud to be able to give two young people prospects and a start on the career ladder.”

Sonia and her two employees are all trained by North East Childcare Training which is a member of north east training professional body, Northumbria Learning Providers.

Sheila Turnbull, director of the Jarrow based training provider, said: “Childcare is an appealing option for many women who are looking to re-enter the job market after time taken out to look after their children. We have worked with lots of childminders throughout the region to help them set up their own businesses and many have gone on to take on apprentices.”

North East Childcare Training has trainers who work with nurseries, schools, child minders, residential carers and foster carers to deliver the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) qualifications for the Children and Young Peoples’ Workforce. The firm has recently been accredited to deliver the new Higher Apprenticeships for Adult Social Care.

Sheila continues: “Being a member of Northumbria Learning providers has been very beneficial to us; their Continuous Professional Development programme is particularly good. And as a collective we can voice our opinions to the National Apprenticeship Service and Skills Funding Agency on a regular basis when we meet with their directors every few weeks for an exchange of information.”

Northumbria Learning Providers (NLP) is an association of training providers that operate within Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and South Tyneside. NLP supports its members to provide quality training and promote their services. For more information about NLP and how to join email

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Jill Farmer (Dobson) .

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