Children & Families First

Early childhood apprenticeship program addresses growing recruitment, retention challenges

Guilford Child Development’s new apprenticeship program aims to increase the number of qualified early child care providers in the workforce while offering access to higher wages. The inaugural cohort, which consists of 14 of the agency’s Head Start/Early Head Start teachers, began classes on Oct. 26.

According to a survey published in July by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), recruiting and retaining qualified early childhood educators has been a longstanding problem. However, since the pandemic, conditions have worsened with 81% of survey respondents saying that recruiting and retaining qualified educators is now even more difficult. Adding to the dilemma is low wages. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents cited extremely low wages as their main recruitment challenge.

Such challenges in a field that has been proven to be critical to the educational, social and emotional development of young children begs the question: What is the solution? A team led by Guilford Child Development’s CEO, Maria Layne-Stevens, Chief Development Officer, Daintry O’Brien, and Education and Training Director, Victoria Vample, has looked within the organization’s own walls for the answer, and this past week launched its Child Development Associate Apprenticeship (CDA) – a program they believe is a key stepping stone on the path toward career advancement in early childhood education.

“To know that we have an opportunity to address some of the most pressing issues affecting early childhood education from the inside is both exciting and rewarding,” said Stevens. “It gives our teachers, who are so passionate about this work, the chance to grow professionally, while earning wages that enable them to better care for their families.”

“The Child Development Associate Apprenticeship offers participants on-the-job learning and coursework aligned with the knowledge and competencies required to be fully proficient employees.”

– Victoria Vample, education and training director

Stevens’ sentiments are the primary reason why Tiwana Johnson, a floater who has worked in childcare since she was 19, says she enrolled in the program.

“I’ve been in childcare for 29 years and decided to continue my education so I can be better,” she said. “I hope the CDA program will help me better myself for me and my kids.”

Johnson is one of the agency’s 14 early childhood teachers enrolled in the program, which is expected to last 6 months and provide participants with 123 hours of one-on-one mentoring, 480 hours of in-classroom experience, plus 120 hours of classroom-based technical instruction, the latter of which can result in college credit.

“The Child Development Associate Apprenticeship offers participants on-the-job learning and coursework aligned with the knowledge and competencies required to be fully proficient employees,” said Victoria Vample, education and training director. As an added bonus, participants will earn wage increases as they meet benchmarks for skill attainment and completion of the program.”

Successful completion of the program requires participants to create a professional portfolio and pass a final exam to earn the Child Development Associate Credential – the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education. With this credential, participants can go on to earn an Associate’s or bachelor’s degree, work in a licensed childcare

For Amanda Cook, a floater at GCD’s Metropolitan Child Development Center, finishing the program will be a major accomplishment.

“I am doing this for myself, to prove I can complete something,” she said. “College was a real struggle for me so I quit after two and a half years. This program is something I feel I can finish and do well in. I am hoping this gives me the courage to push myself to continue to study and succeed.”

To learn more about the Child Development Associate Apprenticeship Program, contact Victoria Vample at (336) 369-5034.