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Apprenticeships Could Offer Big Benefits for Early-Ed Teachers, Report Argues

Are apprenticeships the key to elevating the professionalism of the early-childhood education workforce?

recently released report from New America, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, suggests that may be the case.

The report, which is the final in a series about improving the early-childhood education workforce, notes that workers in this field face increasing pressure to improve their credentials.

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The report lists the ways Registered Apprenticeship programs, which are affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor, can help members of this workforce overcome common barriers that often make it difficult for them to achieve higher education.

"Early educators are most frequently lower income, females, often young parents, and do not have the luxury, or opportunity, or finances to support leaving their positions and going back to school," said Emily Workman, the author of the report. "An apprenticeship program offers both the financial supports but also opportunities to learn on the job, to remain working full-time while pursuing higher education. It's the best of both worlds."

Workman's report praises apprenticeships programs that provide employees with "paid, specialized on-the-job training with ongoing mentorship as well as classroom-based, related technical instruction that can result in college credit."

Under the Registered Apprenticeship model, participants receive a nationally recognized credential. Through degree apprenticeship programs, they receive either an associate degree or a bachelor's degree. Apprentices receive time off to attend classes and get wage increases as they meet certain benchmarks.

Registered Apprenticeship programs generally take two to three years to complete and require around 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and more than 140 hours of classroom-based instruction annually.

The report notes that at least eight states have Registered Apprenticeship programs in place, and some of these are degree apprenticeships.

Implementation Challenges

While apprenticeships are common in many fields, Workman points out that early-childhood education centers often lack the infrastructure to make these programs work and have to rely on outside partners for help. The Labor Department recommends that states and localities looking to establish apprenticeships seek partnerships with others such as businesses, labor unions, or educational institutions.

Registered Apprenticeship programs don't come cheap, and the report highlights the fact that partners can help cover these expenses. For example, tuition and administrative costs have to be paid along with fees for credentialing exams. The report also indicates that the federal government provides funds to support these programs as a way to boost the economy.

The report profiles a successful apprenticeship program in Annandale, Va. The Child Development Center's apprenticeship program has been in place since 2016. Its parent organization, the Annandale Christian Community for Action, or ACCA, serves as the intermediary for the program and provides some funding for the participants.

Currently, about half of the center's 50 early-childhood educators are in the program. Maria-Isabel Ballivian, the executive director of the ACCA Child Development Center, says she's seen her staff in the program experience remarkable growth.

"It increases the quality of the work that they do," said Ballivian. "When you have a group of people that are working toward the same goal, it changes the culture of your organization."

Image by Getty 

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