Tracy Gordon is executive director of the Nebraska Association for the Education of Young Children (Nebraska AEYC). She testified before the Nebraska Legislature’s Education Committee December 1, 2023, on LR251, an interim study introduced by State Senator Robert Dover (Dist. 19) to explore using apprenticeships to grow our state’s early childhood workforce. 

Apprenticeship programs provide an opportunity to support skill development in the high-demand field of early childhood education. An apprenticeship program that includes mentoring support and a comprehensive education, compensation and retention scholarship, will allow a participant to be employed while attending an institution of higher education working toward industry-recognized credentials and degrees. Combining employment, on-the-job training, college coursework and individualized mentoring, an apprenticeship program supports and helps build a more stable early childhood workforce.

The Child Care Services Association (CCSA) and its T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® National Division have developed an apprenticeship program for early childhood educators approved by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.

For nearly 50 years, CCSA has led improvements in early childhood education systems, advocating for the accessible, affordable high-quality child care that is so important for a child’s early development. Children who receive high-quality early childhood education, particularly those from low-income, vulnerable families, are more likely to graduate from high school, pursue secondary education and become contributing members of society.

T.E.A.C.H. scholarships offer unique opportunity
In 1990, CCSA created the T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps) Early Childhood® Scholarship Program to address the issues of under-education, poor compensation and high turnover within the early childhood workforce. A unique scholarship opportunity, the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Program, is a comprehensive national strategy to help address the need for a well-qualified, fairly compensated and stable workforce. The components of T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood scholarships for associate and bachelor’s degrees have always mirrored the components of an apprenticeship program. The National Center’s registered apprenticeship model works in coordination with these existing scholarships to support the early childhood workforce across the country.

This work is accomplished by: (1) reducing the financial and non-financial barriers to access to and success in college; (2) working across all early care and education settings, including child care centers, family home providers, Head Start and pre-K; (3) increasing compensation; (4) incentivizing retention; (5) providing counselors/coaches to help recipients address barriers to success; (6) shortening the time it takes for educators to attain higher education; and (7) leveraging funding to create a more accessible, responsive higher education system.

Nebraska AEYC will administer program
Nebraska AEYC has held the TEACH Early Childhood license since 2002 and will serve as the administrative home for creation and implementation of an apprenticeship model for Nebraska through a contractual agreement between the TEACH National Center. National Center staff will provide technical assistance for a successful apprenticeship model, which could include selection of potential apprentices, mentor eligibility, on-the-job training, related higher education instruction, compensation opportunities and more.

Nebraska AEYC also holds the license for the Child Care WAGE$ program which provides education-based salary supplements to child care providers. It is a companion program to T.E.A.C.H. and is also designed to further the education, retention and compensation of the workforce.

Since 2002, we have provided 1,281 T.E.A.C.H. scholarships. In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, TEACH Early Childhood Nebraska had 122 scholarship recipients benefitting 6,243 children in child care centers, in-home child care, Head Start and pre-K settings. These students earned 1,366 credits while they worked to attain either an associate or bachelor’s degree. This fiscal year we had four students graduate with associate degrees and five students graduate with bachelor’s degrees. All of the scholarship recipients are women, 28% are women of color. Fifty of these recipients are first-generation college attendees. Based on the 2023 TEACH survey, 99% of our scholarship recipients would recommend the TEACH program to others.

Apprenticeships provide a unique opportunity to support the early childhood workforce with targeted, individualized support as they work toward credentials and degrees. Apprenticeship participants come from a variety of roles within the workforce: Those with extensive experience but limited college course work, those who earned the Child Development Associate Credentials (CDA) or those with a high school diploma or GED. Nebraska’s apprenticeship model will support the early childhood workforce in recruiting, training and retaining talent for our profession.

Read LR251: Apprenticeships offer new pathways to enter the early childhood workforce

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