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


Apprenticeship programs are emerging as a viable recruitment and retention tool for the early childhood workforce. First Five Nebraska thanks State Senator Robert Dover (District 19) for introducing LR251, an interim study looking at how apprenticeships could be used to grow Nebraska’s early care and education workforce. Testifiers at its hearing before the Education Committee on December 1 included FFN Policy Advisor Mitchell Clark, representatives from Northeast Community College, the Nebraska Department of Education and the Nebraska Association of the Education of Young Children.

Highly skilled early educators are essential
A highly skilled early childhood workforce is essential to helping our state’s families raise the next generation of healthy, capable Nebraskans. Creating effective education and training pathways for early care and education professionals also produces downstream benefits for the wider workforce and economy. Nebraska apprenticeship programs currently are largely employer driven. However, there is increasing interest in developing more group program sponsors, such as Northeast Community College in Norfolk, to incentivize new early childhood apprentices and employer sponsors.

The Responsive Equitable System for Preparing Early Childhood Teachers (RESPECT) Across Nebraska project is leading an apprenticeship initiative to promote pathways for new talent to enter the early childhood workforce. It shares the collective expertise of its partners to identify components of successful Registered Apprenticeship Programs (RAPs) for the early childhood workforce and is developing an apprentice framework. It was this collaboration that led to a technical assistance contract with Nebraska Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC).

Future support from the State for the infrastructure around early childhood apprenticeships will make RAPs for the early childhood profession accessible on a broad scale in Nebraska.

Multiple avenues to pursue
The State can pursue multiple avenues to ensure a robust infrastructure around RAPs to recruit, retain and develop Nebraska’s early childhood professionals. Recommendations include:

  • Support funding for T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Nebraska Scholarships to incentivize new apprentices
  • Support CDA® scholarships and apprenticeships through the federal Child Care Development Fund
  • Support state aid to dual-enrollment programs offering credits in early childhood education
  • Apply for federal funding through the U.S. Department of Labor’s State Apprenticeship Expansion Formula Grants to help group program sponsors expand; additional competitive funding is available to target underserved populations
  • Provide funding for bilingual Professional Development Specialists to meet requirements of the CDA® for dual-language learners, where a need exists
  • Improve upon the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System (NECPRS) to measure outcomes more accurately for early childhood professional RAPs

There is growing momentum behind efforts to apply the successes of the apprenticeship model from other professions to our state’s early childhood workforce. FFN hopes information shared with the Education Committee during the hearing for LR251 helped to illuminate how this innovative model works and equips the Legislature with useful recommendations for supporting RAPs as an effective tool to grow Nebraska’s pool of professional talent in early childhood care and education.

Recent Posts