Earning While Learning with Early Educator Apprenticeship Programs

Blog Post
Feb. 21, 2019

In February 2019, New America Early & Elementary Education released a brief on apprenticeships for early childhood educators. To read the full brief, click here.

Early childhood educators have a unique position and opportunity to affect the development of young children during a critical period in their lives. But the work is not easy. Early educators need to have deep knowledge in child development and master a complex set of skills. They require training and practice in early childhood classrooms, preferably mentored by experienced teachers.

The how is a conundrum, particularly because there are limited options out there that are well-suited for early educators who are working full time, working in multiple jobs, have children of their own, and who are managing other basic life barriers. How do we move toward a bachelor’s degree without closing doors for thousands of current and future teachers who might not have the means to access the higher education process in the first place?

Several states and cities are already trying an option: Registered Apprenticeships.

Registered Apprenticeships in the Context of Early Education

Most are familiar with apprenticeships in other fields, such as industrial or trade work, but using apprenticeships in the context of early education is a novel concept. In the other industries across many states, apprenticeships are a well-established and effective way to train workers with ongoing mentorship, on-the-job experiences, and corresponding coursework. The success of this model has encouraged places like Philadelphia to utilize Registered Apprenticeships to train early childhood educators.

Not only are Registered Apprenticeships about providing indispensible on-the-ground experience for prospective early educators, but they are paid. With many early educators earning near-poverty level wages, the earning while learning element of the Registered Apprenticeship model is crucial. Apprenticeships can also serve as a route to earning a college degree and a pathway for career advancement, further breaking barriers that current and future early educators potentially face.

Furthermore, early educators are some of the most diverse workforces in the country, and research shows this fact needs to be protected.

How to Implement

The most immediate concern is how to implement a Registered Apprenticeship program when there are costs. The fact is that at least eight states have already made it happen. Our new brief Earning While Learning with Early Educator Apprenticeship Programs explores some of these examples and explains what works and what does not. Through highly strategic partnerships among employers, scholarship programs, community colleges, and government agencies, the financial burden is lessened. And, intermediary organizations facilitate the apprenticeship, administering the project and bringing together partners from across sectors to share in running the program without overburdening the employer who takes on the apprentice.

Helping teachers access the preparation they need to be highly effective can be challenging, especially in a way that is compatible with their individual life situations. But an earn-while-you-learn training model through Registered Apprenticeships is a promising model for state and local leaders to consider as an effective tool for teacher development.

Read more about how the Registered Apprenticeship model can be adopted and executed, including how to combine programs with degree completion requirements in our Earning While Learning with Early Educator Apprenticeship Programs brief.

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