Pay for childcare professionals is absurdly low, when you consider the role educators play in society, yet requirements for employment are expensive—and difficult to meet while working full time.
It’s no wonder early education and care programs are chronically short staffed.
Enter Worcester’s new Project Flourish Child Development Apprenticeship, developed by the Family Services of Central MA, an Affiliate of the Seven Hills Foundation, with strategic and fundraising support from Edward Street.
Modeled after apprenticeships in the trades, the program supports the advancement of early career professionals through a combination of classroom instruction, mentoring, professional networking, pay increases when benchmarks are reached, and, upon graduation, professional certifications.
(The Child Development Apprenticeship is registered with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD).)
This inaugural class of 11 apprentices began its journey on June 23rd.
“This initial group was willing to jump right into a new program in its first year, which shows they’re risk takers and leaders in the field,” said Leslie Baker, Workforce Development Coordinator at the Center for Childcare Careers. “Ultimately, we want this to be a successful, institutionalized aspect of the childcare field, but these first apprentices are the leaders. They’re the groundbreakers.”
These qualities are good news for the future of childcare in Central Massachusetts.
“We’re very interested in helping develop talent for the long-term, which is why we’re so excited about Project Flourish,” said Edward Street Managing Director Kim Davenport. “When passionate, qualified individuals are able to remain in the field, gaining experience and knowledge, young children reap the benefits.”
Program participants may not have the same educational experience as they would in a traditional collegiate setting; however, the expectations and responsibilities aren’t any less.
In addition to full time work at a Worcester County childcare program, apprentices will meet with a classroom instructor for 150 hours over a 10-11-month period and will need to demonstrate mastery in nationally-recognized competencies.
Graduates will receive an EOLWD Apprenticeship Certificate and become eligible for Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) Teacher licensure. Additionally, they will earn required professional development hours towards Lead Teacher licensure as well as the nationally recognized Child Development Associate certification from the Council for Professional Recognition. Graduates can also earn up to six credits in pursuit of a higher education degree.
The increased flexibility and career opportunities may sway more women and men, and their parents, to view childcare as a career instead of short-term employment.
“Right now we have young people who want to enter the field, who want to earn a degree in early childhood, but their parents are saying, ‘We don’t want you working for $27,000 a year.’ This program will help them get started without the high cost of a university education,” said Davenport.
What’s next? Better pay and incentives for early educators of all education and experience levels. Only then can Massachusetts meet the needs of all young children, and the passionate adults who wish to serve them.
Worcester’s new Project Flourish Child Development Apprenticeship, however, is a great start.
To learn more about the Project Flourish Child Development Apprenticeship, contact Leslie Baker, Workforce Development Coordinator at Family Services of Central MA, an Affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation, at 508-796-1978, or visit www.fscm.org.