Dozens of nursery teachers are due to start work in Moray this week as part of a huge expansion of childcare in the region.
The council has recruited more than 40 staff for the new term as part of the huge expansion of free hours available to families.
About 1,000 children are now entitled to 1,140 hours a year of care with a nursery or childminder – increased from 600 as part of a Scottish Government project.
The investment meant the council must look to recruit up to 300 new employees by next year in order to cope with the surge in demand.
A further round of recruitment is due to take place early in 2020 as the programme is rolled out to all three and four-year-olds as well as eligible two-year-olds.
The latest intake has come from a mix of council staff moving from other jobs, new entries to the industry and existing employees who have taken new posts.
Mitch Fraser, who previously worked as a senior nursery nurse at Tomintoul Primary School’s nursery, has been appointed as the new nursery manager for nurseries in the village as well as Keith.
He said: “The expansion has been great for me. I would never have had the opportunity to step up without it.
“It will be great for all of the early years staff by giving them a chance to progress with their career.”
The expansion has also resulted in new buildings being built for the region’s youngsters.
A refurbished Lady Cathcart is already open in Buckie.
Meanwhile, nurseries at both Pilmuir Primary School in Forres and at Cullen Primary School are expected to be ready later this academic year.
Sonya Warren, chairwoman of Moray Council’s children and young people’s committee, said the new staff would be a “welcome boost”.
She said: “We expected the expansion of early learning and childcare funded hours would bring recruitment challenges.
“However we’ve had consistently high quality applications with more than 200 applications for 10 posts in spring 2019.
“We now know that we have an enthusiastic workforce making the most of the opportunities open to them.”