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New Research on Pre-Apprentice Model That Supports Childhood Education and Professional Skill-Building

New research by Sophie Kelmenson, Allison Forbes and Nichola Lowe looks at instructor training programs for early childhood education (ECE) teachers that expand access to high quality childcare for children under five. ECE has been found to break the cycle of poverty by providing low-income children with high-quality learning environments and parents with high-quality childcare. “Expanding programs like these also offers another, less recognized benefit to low-income youth entering adulthood,” said Kelmenson. “The prospect of a career as an ECE instructor.”

Sophie Kelmenson
Sophie Kelmenson

In the Report on the Early Childhood Education Pre-Apprentice Model, published by Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness, the research team studied how the School District of Philadelphia piloted a model for training high schoolers in the field of ECE, giving students an opportunity to support childhood education in their community while advancing their own professional skills and earnings. The new program, hosted by Parkway West High School, is located in a low-income neighborhood and links career preparation in high school to accelerated credentialing and higher compensation in the ECE industry. “The program allows students to advance within the ECE field, securing upwardly mobile positions that serve the community’s need for well-trained teachers,” noted Forbes.

“What is critical to students’ success is the way that high school programming is integrated with established efforts to upskill ECE instructors and enhance ECE service provision,” explained Kelmenson. “Students who complete the Parkway West program earn a professional certification recognized in the ECE industry, graduate high school with college credits, and have the option to start an apprenticeship with a participating employer.” Students are trained in the classroom and gain formative (paid) work experience at high performing ECE centers under qualified staff mentors.

Allison Forbes
Allison Forbes

Forbes explained that the program provides a jumpstart for students seeking a career in the field of education. “Without this program, the higher levels of teaching credentials required to substantially improve ECE quality are often out of reach for many hopeful young educators.”

Pursuing higher education can be expensive and difficult for teaching aides, who generally earn minimum wage. This expensive credentialing process can discourage teachers to seek further training, particularly for teachers in low-income neighborhoods, exacerbating issues of under-representation by people of color in higher level teaching positions. This dynamic, in turn, reduces teaching quality for low-income students and students of color.

Philadelphia’s Parkway West case highlights ways to leverage industry and higher education partners to fortify curriculum and student pathways to work.

Nichola Lowe

“By documenting the steps taken to create this pioneering program, our report shows it is possible for other cities and states to improve their ECE systems by preparing the next generation of ECE instructors,” said Lowe. “This example may be instructive for school districts seeking to enhance career exploration and training programs for high school youth in ECE and other industries.”

Sophie Kelmenson is a doctoral student at the department of city and regional planning (DCRP) at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Allison Forbes, vice president of research at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness in Arlington, Virginia, earned her PhD from DCRP. Nichola Lowe is a professor at DCRP.

This report was prepared for the District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund by the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with support from the Pennsylvania Key and the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development & Early Learning. The Training Fund and supporters aim to assist all regions of Pennsylvania in their connection to Pennsylvania’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Registered Apprenticeship Pipeline Program.


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