By Ali Schoon

In the recently released report, Early Childhood Apprenticeship Programs, CHILDREN AT RISK reviews how apprenticeship programs can create a pipeline of highly-qualified early childhood education teachers in Texas. This blog touches on three important pieces from this report on: the challenges child care teachers face, how to use an apprenticeship program to solve issues in early childhood education, and recommendations for action.

From birth through the age of three, children experience an incredible amount of brain growth which shapes their future learning, health, and behaviors. Child care teachers play an important role in the brain-building that sets children up for future success at this crucial stage. Despite the significant impact child care teachers can have on child development and future outcomes, the child care industry struggles with high turnover, low wages, and low levels of education or training for its teachers. These factors make it difficult to recruit and keep high-quality teachers in child care and ensure children are school-ready.

What are factors that are making it difficult to achieve high-quality child care in Texas?

Low educational standards: Texas only requires a child care teacher to have a high school diploma and 24 hours of pre-service training in order to be qualified to teach. This is not enough for teachers to be equipped with the appropriate education, knowledge, and skills to be responsible for shaping children’s brains.

Low supply of quality care: These low educational standards lead to an inadequate supply of quality child care in Texas. Only 11% of child care providers in Texas are certified to meet quality standards through the Texas Rising Star (TRS) quality rating and improvement system.

Low wages: One in four child care teachers in Texas has an associate’s degree or higher, but many earn so little that they qualify for government assistance. With no clear path to a higher paying job within the child care industry, child care teachers who earn a bachelor’s degree often leave for higher wages with a public school program or Head Start.

High turnover: These low wages and lack of benefits lead to high staff turnover and staffing shortages which impact a child care provider’s ability to provide consistent, high quality care.

Why establish apprenticeship programs in early childhood education?

Early childhood apprenticeships can provide child care teachers with a career pathway that is affordable and offers the opportunity for higher education and training. Apprenticeship programs allow low-wage workers to get on-the-job training while simultaneously increasing their skills and potential for higher wages. These programs can also address the shortages of qualified workers in the child care industry. Apprenticeship programs in the early childhood sector are already being used across the nation to enforce a skilled and stable workforce. When creating an apprenticeship program, there are five core components for success: employer involvement, on-the-job training, related training and classroom instruction, rewards for skills gains, and a credential or degree. Initiatives that involve these components already exist in Texas. However, they are all operating separately. These initiatives could be combined strategically within early childhood apprenticeship programs to strengthen quality child care in Texas.

What can local and state leaders do to support the creation of apprenticeship programs?

To initiate and build successful early childhood apprenticeship programs in Texas, local and state leaders need to be involved. Leaders can initiate actions which coordinate partnerships, increase financial support, and expand training or credentials to support the goals of an apprenticeship program. For example, the Texas Workforce Commission and Governor’s office can integrate child care apprenticeship programs into the state’s next workforce plan. Leaders can also ensure that training, which is provided to child care teachers through Local Boards or state agencies, counts toward additional credentials or an associate’s degree. Collaboration between government entities – both state and local – and providers, is crucial to building and implementing successful apprenticeship programs in Texas.

Establishing Early Childhood Apprenticeship Programs in Texas could increase the quality of Texas child care while simultaneously providing more training and skills for teachers. To learn more about how to initiate an apprenticeship program in Texas, check out the full report: Early Childhood Apprenticeship Programs.