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This Apprenticeship Program ‘Is Raising Wages & Quality’ In The Child Care Workforce

Published Tuesday, October 12, 2021
by Isaac Windes/The Fort Worth Star Telegram
This Apprenticeship Program ‘Is Raising Wages & Quality’ In The Child Care Workforce

(FORT WORTH, TEXAS) - June Robles did not see a future as an early educator when she started as an Assistant Teacher at a Fort Worth Child Care Center just over a year ago.

She had just left the retail industry and had plans to go to Culinary School to become a Baker.

But shortly after starting, she joined the Camp Fire First Texas Early Educator Apprenticeship Program - the first of its kind in Texas.

“When I first started, I didn’t see myself going far with it,” Robles said. “Now that I’ve been doing it for a year, I don’t want to stop.”

The Apprenticeship Program graduated its first class at the end of September and experts believe the program is already increasing the quality of child care for children and Child Care Workers in Tarrant County.

In her first year on the job Robles has received two promotions, and raises, and now serves as the Assistant Director of Good Shepherd Christian Academy in Fort Worth.

Robles’ story is a rare bright spot in an industry with chronically low salaries, especially for Women of Color.

A trifecta of low wages, high turnover and lack of access to education have historically contributed to widespread lack of quality early childhood education across the state, especially in high-needs areas, according to Children at Risk, an Advocacy Organization.

High quality early education has also been tied to academic success later in life, making it critical for communities that are already at a disadvantage.

The Coronavirus Pandemic compounded these issues, driving many Early Educators to leave the industry, resulting in what some advocates are calling a crisis that could threaten a full economic recovery.

Without Staff, providers are left with fewer seats for parents who were already having difficulties finding adequate childcare before the pandemic.

In Tarrant County, where only 21% of Licensed Child Care Providers are part of a quality rating and improvement system, the Apprenticeship Program facilitated by Camp Fire First is working to counteract those trends and increase both the quality of education for children and the income for Early Educators.

“It is no secret that early education has really struggled over the course of many years,” said Lyn Lucas, the Senior Vice President of Early Education and Program Evaluation for Camp Fire First. “Apprenticeships have long been the answer to industry shortages in all kinds of industries and right now we know that we have a serious shortage of quality Early Education Teachers.”

Camp Fire First has worked for over a decade on developing a Mentorship and Progress Monitoring Program to ensure school readiness for students across Tarrant County.

The Apprenticeship Program builds on that momentum and works to provide more value and opportunities for Early Educators who participate.

Through surveying the educators they already work with, Camp Fire First Members found that many long-time Early Educators had tried to pursue training and certifications in their careers, but have faced obstacles including cost, transportation and child care hindering their efforts.

“One thing the Apprenticeship Program does is take away some of those barriers,” Lucas said. “This program is available at no cost to the Apprentices and values the experience they have and helps close the opportunity gap.”

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