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How States Are Using PDG B-5 Grants to Support Career Pathways

Resource December 15, 2023

The BUILD Initiative, ZERO TO THREE, and Start Early, recently released a new brief highlighting the strategies states are using to improve career pathways in their Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) applications. This brief highlights how PDG B-5 is being used to build the capacity of early care and education (ECE) systems, create infrastructure, provide direct services, and pilot new work in order to bolster child care availability. Their analysis found that states are employing different pilot programs and temporary strategies that are moving the needle in their states, but more federal funding is needed to ensure that they can see this work come to fruition and support young children and their families.

PDG B-5 is a competitive federal grant designed to improve states’ ECE systems. In 2023, 21 states were awarded Planning Grants, and 21 states were awarded Renewal Grants. While the scope of work for planning grantees is to conduct comprehensive needs assessments and draft strategic plans, the renewal grantees focus on implementing their strategic plan. The 21 renewal grantees are using this infusion of federal funding across a wide range of content areas in their ECE systems, and in a variety of ways, such as by implementing compensation reforms, expanding professional development training, building the supply of child care, and streamlining administrative requirements. 

In analyzing PDG B-5 Renewal Grant applications, BUILD found that states have been charting their own course when it comes to ECE system development by working on a variety of projects and initiatives at once. They found that states tend to focus on shorter-term projects for their renewal grants, perhaps because states do not see PDG B-5 as a reliable, continuous funding stream and lack confidence that state funding would be available to sustain the work. States may also be focusing on producing near-term results, or the broad framework of the grant may have led to more responsive strategies.

Qualified early educators are essential to children’s healthy growth and development. But with dismally low pay, lack of basic benefits, and often limited opportunities for career growth, early educators continue to leave the field for better-paying and potentially less demanding jobs. 

The early care and education (ECE) field has long been struggling with recruiting and retaining early educators. The child care sector is still down 30,400 jobs from pre-pandemic levels and this workforce shortage has far-reaching impacts as classrooms have closed and fewer children can access quality early learning opportunities. In light of this, in September 2022, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released a Notice of Funding Opportunity that encouraged PDG B-5 grantees to invest in strategies that will support and strengthen the workforce. To address these critical workforce needs, many states utilized PDG B-5 grant funds to establish and maintain career pathways in ECE. Expanding ‘career pathways’ encompasses activities supporting both prospective and current early educators that work to clearly define career trajectories and improve educators’ practice by fostering growth and skill development. The funding provided through PDG B-5 provides meaningful resources for early educators to build their knowledge and skills and have access to advancement and growth opportunities. 

According to BUILD’s analysis, PDG B-5 plans were most likely to support career pathways across three key areas: 

  1. Recruit prospective educators into the profession
  2. Support degree and credential attainment
  3. Strengthen advancement opportunities

Within these three areas, BUILD found that states are adopting over a dozen strategies, such as leading recruitment and visibility campaigns, creating and expanding registered apprenticeship programs, providing financial supports for credit completion, and revising and strengthening career lattices, among many others. 

PDG B-5 grants provide an opportunity for states to create supportive, targeted strategies. Click here to read more about all of the strategies that states are pursuing and read on for a few examples directly from BUILD of how states are using PDG B-5 grant funds to improve career pathways for early educators. 

Recruit prospective educators into the profession

Recruitment into the profession is the first step in developing a strong career pathway. States proposed three types of strategies in their PDG B-5 grant applications – leading recruitment and visibility campaigns, developing high school initiatives, and creating and expanding registered apprenticeships.

  1. Leading recruitment and visibility campaigns

Fifteen states (Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia) intend to use PDG B-5 funds to enhance awareness of ECE careers and attract more educators to the field.

Louisiana plans to launch a campaign highlighting the significance of ECE, its role in preparing children for kindergarten, and advocating for using more professional language when referring to early childhood educators (e.g., using “early childhood educator” instead of “daycare worker”). The campaign will utilize billboards, flyers, ads, social media, and will be promoted during the annual Teacher Leader Summit and Early Childhood Education Conference.

  1. Developing high school initiatives

Nine states (Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas) plan to utilize PDG B-5 grant funds to promote and incentivize high school students to pursue ECE careers.

Texas will enhance the Early Learning Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program of Study by providing dual credit toward an early childhood degree, establishing partnerships with high-quality child care programs as practicum sites for CTE students, expanding the existing scholarship program to cover the costs of a CDA exam, sharing information about potential career paths after graduation, and providing compensation support while students are participating. 

  1. Creating and expanding registered apprenticeships

Ten states (Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia) are expanding or establishing apprenticeship programs to encourage credential attainment. Apprenticeships provide an accessible way for educators to acquire the knowledge and skills they need while earning an income. 

Colorado plans to establish a home visiting apprenticeship program modeled after its child care specialist apprenticeship. Following collaborative planning with the Home Visiting Investment Task Force, Red Rocks Community College, acting as the intermediary agency, will seek federal apprenticeship designation. The state will initiate a pilot program offering free professional development, along with small stipends for employers, mentors, substitutes (if applicable), and apprentices.

Support degree and credential attainment

Steep tuition fees, vague course requirements, and a lack of alignment between educational institutions are common challenges that early educators face while pursuing degrees, credentials, and career advancement opportunities. States are using a variety of strategies to tackle these issues, including providing financial support for credential completion and creating new credential types or specializations, among others. 

  1. Providing financial support for credential completion

Fifteen states (Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington) will use PDG B-5 funds to provide financial supports to facilitate credential completion.

Ohio will expand T.E.A.C.H., a compensation and retention program for child care professionals. Students pursuing a health and human services degree while working at least 20 hours a week in a licensed child care program are eligible for a scholarship of up to $5,000 each semester. Additionally, high school students committing to completing the CDA coursework and portfolio will receive a scholarship covering the coursework, a stipend for portfolio supplies, and a $500 incentive upon passing the CDA exam.

  1. Creating new credential types or specializations

Eight states (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, and Ohio) plan to utilize PDG B-5 grants to create new credential types or specializations. 

Hawaii aims to expand the Infant and Toddler Caregiver Certificate pathway across all University of Hawaii Community College ECE programs, with additional sections offered at Honolulu Community College in the fall of 2023. This will help to expand the workforce of qualified infant and toddler teachers.

Strengthen advancement opportunities

Advancement opportunities help educators refine skills, boost job satisfaction, reduce turnover, and specialize. Clear career paths outline required skills and milestones at each level. States are revising and strengthening career lattices, and updating and aligning competencies and standards.

  1. Revising and strengthening career lattices

Twelve states (Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Texas, and Vermont) will use PDG B-5 grants to develop and strengthen career lattices and clarify career pathways.

Kentucky will simplify its career lattice, incorporating increased compensation that keeps pace with professional experience and qualifications.

  1. Updating and aligning competencies and standards

Ten states (Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, and Oklahoma) will leverage PDG B-5 grants to update and develop competencies and standards to support educators pursuing career advancement opportunities.

North Dakota will convene a Professional Development Working Group to update the current Core Competencies for Practitioners, aligning them with the NAEYC Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators. 

Supported career pathways that are strategically aligned to compensation and advancement opportunities are essential to a robust early childhood workforce. State efforts, supported by PDG B-5 dollars, demonstrate the importance of recognizing educators for their experience and expertise and establishing a clear link between compensation and career growth. PDG B-5 has supported efforts to attract and retain early educators by addressing the issue of inadequate compensation and contributing to a resilient early childhood workforce, which ultimately benefits children and families.

BUILD will continue to produce briefs highlighting how states are using PDG B-5 renewal grants, focusing on the following strategies: Mixed Delivery Systems. This is part of a larger blog series, find the rest of our PDG series here.

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