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First Early Childhood Educator Apprenticeship established in Alabama

As part of the Yellowhammer News Connect to your Future series, the following serves as information from series sponsor Alabama Works regarding the establishment of an apprenticeship aimed at providing opportunities for students seeking to enter the field of early childhood education.

Leadership representing Troy University and Wallace Community College last month joined the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE) in announcing the launch of the state’s first Early Childhood Educator Apprenticeship.

As part of the ambitious mission set forth by Gov. Kay Ivey and her administration’s Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative, the Early Childhood Educator (ECE) Apprenticeship is designed to improve the quality of care in the early childhood setting. Additionally, the program aims to provide opportunities for current workers to enhance their skills and create seamless coursework transition between the community college and university.

The ECE Apprenticeship will increase the number of qualified early childhood educators in the state’s workforce, as apprentices will be provided with on-the-job learning opportunities accompanied by a mentor as they partake in related technical instruction from higher educational instructions.

According to the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship (AOA), the program paves the way for participants to complete stackable credentials, earn Child Development Associate certification, and obtain associate’s and bachelor’s degrees while serving as an employee with a child care provider.

ADECE secretary Dr. Barbara Cooper outlined the state’s demand for an increased number of early childhood educators.

“This apprenticeship is a step in the right direction towards building the early education workforce pathway,” said Cooper. “Research tells us 90% of a child’s brain development happens through the first five years. Our state’s youngest learners need well prepared educators in high quality early learning environments to maximize this precious time.”

Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr. hailed his institution’s partnership in aligning with the state’s mission to meet the outstanding need. The chancellor also hailed the role the university’s Coleman Center for Early Learning will play in the program.

“The Coleman Center serves as a model center for preparing future teachers while researching and disseminating best practices in early childhood education. Of course, it does so in a caring and loving environment for the children enrolled,” stated Hawkins. “We are pleased Troy University and our partners are forging the future of early childhood education in our state and nation.”

Dr. Linda Young, president of Wallace Community College-Dothan, expressed her excitement over the institution’s participation in the first-of-its-kind apprenticeship the state of Alabama has launched.

“Wallace Community College-Dothan is so pleased and excited to be a part of this Early Childhood Educator Apprenticeship—the very first in our state,” advised Young. “Like our friends at Troy University, Wallace strives to be an innovator in education and training, and this is one such example of our commitment to trendsetting. We look forward to watching our students complete their apprenticeships, earn their degrees, and become part of the next generation of outstanding educators.”

AOA director Josh Laney echoed the academic leaders’ sentiments and further reinforced the importance of the apprenticeship program’s establishment.

“The launch of this program represents a major investment of time, effort, and energy from everyone involved because that is what it takes to do something out of the ordinary,” proclaimed Laney. “What we are launching here is the blueprint for a whole new path. We are extremely proud to register this program as a pilot and model that demonstrates feasibility, with the intention to pursue resources in the future.”

Upon the program’s launch, two students signed their names to documentation making them the first participants of the groundbreaking apprenticeship.

The apprenticeship’s pilot group at the Coleman Center will receive hands-on support from mentors, B-5 coaches and directors. The ECE Apprenticeship Toolkit will also provide guidance to the students, which was developed by officials from ADECE and AOA, as well as leaders in the field of early childhood education.

The apprenticeship is offered at no cost to participants as they earn progressive wages while they learn and earn their credentials. The program’s costs to employers will be offset by FAFSA, TEACH scholarships, Leadership in Childcare Scholarships, and C3 Scholarships. The Dothan Career Center will also assist in seeking additional funding through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and other available grants. The Coleman Center and ADECE will cover any remaining costs.

Thank you to our “Connect to your Future” sponsors: Alabama Power, Alabama Works and Manufacture Alabama for making this initiative possible.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL