A Scottish university is trying to encourage more men to consider jobs in childcare.
Only 4% of those working in early years and childcare are male, according to the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).
It is piloting a 12-week course for men, with the classes run in evenings to better suit those already working in jobs during the day.
Those who complete the course have the chance to gain an HNC in childcare.
UHI said the early years and childcare profession faces a skills shortage, with Scotland needing about 11,000 new workers by 2020 to meet the Scottish government’s commitment to provide 30 hours of free childcare to eligible two to four-year-olds.
Its new course is supported by a £23,600 grant from the Scottish Funding Council’s Men in Early Years Challenge Fund.
The fund was launched last year by Maree Todd, Minister for Childcare and Early Years, as part of an effort to increase childcare training places in Scottish universities and colleges.
Those who successfully complete the fast-track course at Inverness College UHI will be guaranteed an interview for the university’s HNC Childcare course, which starts in August.
Heather Keyes, of Inverness College UHI, said it had been recognised that there was “much more work to be done” to ensure Scotland’s nurseries and schools were diverse and gender balanced.
She said: “This isn’t just about meeting a government target. There’s a huge amount of research that shows role models of both genders are critical in early years, and that men bring different skills and approaches to learning, which is important for child development.
“Men working in early years also report high levels of job satisfaction – not only is it a career full of variety, with indoor and outdoor working, it offers flexible hours and lots of opportunities for progression.
“We are delighted to receive this grant and look forward to continuing the work we’re doing to encourage men into the profession.”