Early education in licensed child care programs is and has been a polarizing topic of discussion. Advocates within the field are calling for more respect and acknowledgement for the profession, while those outside the field are either disinterested or hold antiquated views of early childhood education as “daycare” or “babysitting.” Growing awareness of the importance of early education in a child’s growth and development has increased the demand for quality early education. The Insight Center states, “Over the past decade, an increasing awareness of the long-term benefits of early childhood education has led to growing enrollment in education-based programs.”
The sudden onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated the need for quality child care throughout the U.S. NewAmerica.org states, “The COVID-19 pandemic raging throughout the United States and the world has shone a harsh spotlight on just how essential child care and early learning is, as well as how far we have to go to create a high-quality, accessible and affordable system that works for child care providers, educators and families.”
Changing the Narrative
Awareness is the first step in changing the narrative of early education as “babysitting” or “daycare.” Early educators are essential to healthy social, emotional, and academic growth in young children, and therefore essential to school readiness. The approval of funding for full-day Pre K in Texas has brought with it increased support of public Pre K teachers as professionals, but there is still work to be done to support early education professionals in licensed child care programs.
One of the ways to support early educators in licensed child care programs is through workforce development, including on-the-job training and instruction provided by Registered Apprenticeships. The shift to live, virtual training and coaching due to the Covid-19 pandemic, makes access to instruction both safe and easy for apprentices.
Little is known about registered apprenticeships in early education, since apprenticeships generally lean toward “traditional” industries such as manufacturing and construction. However, the U.S. Department of Labor website states, “apprenticeship is also instrumental for training and development in growing industries, such as health care, information technology, transportation and logistics, and energy.” The current acknowledgement of early education teachers as essential workers, and child care as an essential part of life for working families, solidifies early education apprenticeships as an industry need for training high quality early educators.
As a growing industry, there is increased demand for high-quality early educators, and with that demand comes the need to formalize the standard by which “high-quality” is determined. Camp Fire First Texas has taken the lead in developing this standard in the State of Texas through a Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship. This is not to say that the idea of apprenticeship in Texas is new; the template for the Child Development Specialist Standards of Apprenticeship for Texas was created in 1984, but it is Camp Fire who brought this idea into reality 36 years later.
The Camp Fire Early Education Apprenticeship Program (EEAP) has many benefits, including:
- Stipends for apprentices
- Stipends for site directors
- Wage increases for apprentices
- High-quality professional development
- Opportunities to earn college credit
- On-site mentoring
Although many early educators already participate in any combination of mentoring, professional development and on-the-job learning, it has not -up to this point- produced any tangible recognition of effort. The Camp Fire EEAP changes that by providing an outcome that has value, such as a Department of Labor recognized certificate, wage increases, and clearly defined career pathways that early educators can follow if they choose.
Camp Fire has taken the lead on early education registered apprenticeships in Texas, however, momentum has been growing, with several early education apprenticeships around the country already established. The Bipartisan Policy Center acknowledges Registered Apprenticeships as “A Way Forward in Advancing the Early Childhood Workforce.”
Early education registered apprenticeships have also received increase interest and acknowledgement from Texas Workforce Commission with new funding initiatives that support early education registered apprenticeships added to more traditional path for workforce development.
Camp Fire First Texas is dedicated to advocating for the recognition and support of early educators and has worked to align its standards with that of the Power to the Profession Professional Competencies and Standards, the Seven Components of High-Quality Apprenticeships, and the Workforce Education Course Manual (WECM). As momentum for early education registered apprenticeships continue to grow, Camp Fire will likewise continue to champion high quality registered apprenticeships across the state.