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New Resource on Using Apprenticeships to Strengthen the ECE Workforce

Resource September 12, 2019

This week, the Bipartisan Policy Center published a new issue brief highlighting the potential for states to use registered apprenticeships to support their early childhood education (ECE) workforce. Early learning and care professionals play an essential role in shaping a child’s successful development and allow parents to work and go to school to provide for their families. Recognizing the significance of this role, policymakers have increased credentialing requirements for educators. At the same time, however, the brief reports that child care workers’ compensation ranks near the bottom of all occupations, and more than half were enrolled in at least one-public support or health care program. These factors together have resulted in significant shortages in the ECE workforce. Registered apprenticeships are an innovative solution to address these shortages, offering teachers the opportunity to earn an income while acquiring the skills and education needed to advance in their careers.

The brief provides an overview of registered apprenticeships in the context of career pathways, which are governed by the federal Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA was enacted with bipartisan support in 2014 and formalized career pathways, which have existed for decades, by establishing a common definition and outlining their essential elements. Pursuant to WIOA, career pathways consist of high-quality education, training, and other services that help individuals to accelerate their education and careers and may include registered apprenticeships. Registered apprenticeships provide paid on-the-job training, related classroom-based instruction, and wage increases for skill gains, culminating in a nationally-recognized credential. In an ECE career pathway, a registered apprenticeship could be a first step toward earning a child development associate credential, an associate’s degree, or a bachelor’s degree, while improving the quality of the ECE workforce and increasing their wages.

The brief also provides examples of three states who have adopted ECE registered apprenticeships programs (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado) and includes recommendations for states and communities to develop WIOA-supported ECE career pathways and registered apprenticeships. For these to be successful, the brief explains state and federal governments, community-level leaders, philanthropic organizations, and higher-education institutions must work together. Specific recommendations for these entities include:

  • Congress – Consider funding start-up costs for states to develop and accelerate registered apprenticeships as part of an ECE career pathway.
  • U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – Consider actively promoting registered apprenticeships as a part of a WIOA-defined career pathway for the ECE workforce.
  • HHS – Consider expanding ECE professional-development technical assistance to include workforce expertise in career pathways and registered apprenticeships.
  • States – Consider developing a WIOA-defined ECE career pathway and registered apprenticeship program and including this work in WIOA state plans; including ECE apprenticeships as part of workforce funding; and using systems-building grants to fund higher-education institutions to develop and monitor content, coursework, and related instruction in registered apprenticeships.


Click here to read all the recommendations and the full issue brief.

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