Moving Forward Together to Build a Strong Early Childhood Workforce

by Tami Havener, Executive Director of Family Development Center in Routt County

tami-portraitOur state’s focus on the Early Childhood Workforce and the I2I project is very exciting. From my perspective as a Director of a medium size early learning program for more than 30 years, this initiative has such promise.

I have experienced over time, increasing state regulations for both teacher qualifications and job expectations. As a nationally accredited (NAEYC) center since 1990, we have always had higher expectations for teachers. While meeting or exceeding accreditation standards has always been a choice, recently, regulatory requirements have made recruitment and retention more difficult.

preschool-cookingBeing able to find the person who is the right fit for an organization has always been tricky. Add onto that, finding someone who has all of the educational or training requirements met before they can begin in a classroom with children has exponentially increased the dilemma. This is exacerbated by working in a community where training is not readily available.

Once the right person is recruited, retaining becomes an issue especially when compensation parity with public school teachers is still an unattainable goal. I feel blessed to have some of my best teachers for 10-20 years. Still, we consistently lose good teachers to the public school system, or to less demanding jobs.
As an agency with just under 20 staff, we are constantly working to increase compensation and benefits. And while donations and grants help, these are most often not sustainable. So when we added health insurance and a retirement plan as a benefit for our staff, we had to pass that cost on to families as a tuition increase. We all know that Colorado is one of the most expensive states for child care. It is always a balancing act of compensating teachers fairly and honoring a family’s ability to pay for early childhood care and education.

snowy-winter-003It is said “when we know better, we do better.” Well, we know how critically important these early years are.  Yet we still depend upon families’ ability to pay, and teachers’ foregone wages to primarily fund our early childhood system. There needs to be other strong contributors at the table, in order for all of us to “do better” by our youngest. And we need to honor family choice with a mixed delivery system to meet various family needs.

Our state’s Workforce project efforts have a huge task in solving or even making a significant dent in this issue.  I am hopeful that we can move forward together.

Supporting a Strong Early Childhood Workforce in Colorado

by Kristina Mueller, Early Childhood Leadership Commission Director

kmuellereccpblogWe know that when children are cared for in stable, quality environments with supportive, well-trained educators, they are better able to reach their full potential and be prepared to succeed throughout their life.

Colorado’s professional development system for early childhood educators has soared over the past several years thanks to the work of the Colorado Department of Human Services – Office of Early Childhood and the Department of Education, along with all of our partners throughout Colorado.

However, many communities still lack an effective, consistent workforce in whom families can place their trust and with whom young children can thrive.

That’s why the state of Colorado is working together to develop and implement sustainable strategies to help recruit, retain, compensate, and support the early childhood professional workforce.

The Early Childhood Leadership Commission has prioritized “Elevating the Early Childhood Workforce” as one of its three main focus areas for the next several years.  Through the work of the EC Professional Development Advisory Working Group, we are using research, stakeholder input, and local and state expertise to create the State’s next generation EC Workforce and Professional Development Plan, which was originally created in 2010.

Taking this work further, Colorado is participating in the Incubation to Innovation (i2I) project with the National Academy of Medicine through an innovative and exciting public/private partnership including Early Milestones Colorado, the Colorado Department of Education, and the Colorado Department of Human Services, along with philanthropic partners Gary Community Investments and the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation. Over the next several years this group will develop sustainable and varied approaches to recruit, retain, compensate, and support a well-qualified workforce through research, planning, and pilots that will lead to the spread of practices and policies throughout the state.

More information on this work can be found on the website at http://coloradoecworkforce.org.

Once again, Colorado is leading the way by working to find sustainable, supportive methods to support our early childhood professionals and provide better environments for our children.  We look forward to working together to develop and implement this exciting work!

Project: Family Friendly Workplace Toolkit

Organizations: EPIC/CDPHE/HealthLinks

Location of Messaging: Statewide

The Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit highlights best practices and the components of a family-friendly workplace. It includes messaging catered to business leaders around the role they play in child development and economic prosperity. Also includes language around how family-friendly business practices promote positive parenting practices.

Collateral:

Family-Friendly Workplace Toolkit