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Study to examine early childcare, including apprenticeships

Study to examine early childcare, including apprenticeships

LINCOLN, Neb. – Trying to increase the childcare offerings in Nebraska and improve pay and working conditions within the industry are among the benefits of a legislative proposal that’s expected to be discussed next session in the Nebraska Legislature.

Legislative Resolution 251, which is being introduced by state Sen. Rob Dover of Norfolk and others, would propose an interim study to explore the development of registered apprenticeship program sponsors within Nebraska's education system for early childhood care and education.
Interim study resolutions, such as this one, cover topics that state senators believe will be the subject of future legislation. 

Among those testifying in support of the study earlier this month in Lincoln before the Nebraska Legislature’s Education Committee were Lisa Guenther, Northeast Community College’s early childhood education instructor, and Kim Andersen, Northeast’s associate director of apprenticeship for workforce development. In all, six people testified.

Northeast already has an apprenticeship program with four Early Childhood Education pathways of study. Its course of study includes Safe With You training, the Nebraska Departments of Education approved training for all childcare and preschool providers; fingerprinting background check completion; and Pediatric Infant CPR/First Aid.

Dover said he has an appreciation for the importance of early childhood education and how the lack of childcare providers prevents many workers from joining the workforce or limits their participation.

“This is just one piece of the puzzle that we must solve to make sure our state has a bright future,” Dover said, while testifying before the Education Committee.
“We must take care of our children. We spend so much time and money dealing with challenges in our society that if we addressed (some of the issues) at an earlier age, I truly believe that we Nebraskans have a brighter future, not only for ourselves, but for our children.”

Guenther said Northeast Early Childhood Education provides a board with prospective jobs posted for students. She receives four to five job opportunities for students each week.

“We currently are in the early stages of Early Childhood Education Apprenticeship, with two students participating and hope to expand our participants in the future,” Guenther said. “These two students appreciate the support and commitment and their employer and mentor provides. The experiences they are receiving are invaluable.”

In addition to Northeast’s apprenticeship program, Northeast offers many other tuition and job opportunities.

“The apprenticeship program is another pathway we offer to provide the workforce with more quality childcare providers,” Guenther said.

She noted that childcare is not babysitting, with 90% of a person’s brain development taking place from birth to age 5.

“Childcare is a profession where love of children, a great deal of patience, knowledge of developmentally appropriate practices and the philosophy that every waking minute you are with a child is a learning moment are paramount,” Guenther said.

Northeast developed the first RAP (Registered Apprenticeship Program) for early childhood professionals.

Andersen said Northeast began an apprenticeship program in October 2019. There are now eight programs registered, including the Child Development Associate or CDA credential. There are 26 active apprenticeships, 22 of whom started in the past 12 months, she said.

“Apprenticeships focus on creating alternate career pathways for individuals seeking both income and postsecondary education. This aligns with Northeast’s vision to empower every person in our region to achieve their academic and workforce development goals,” Andersen said.

Through apprenticeships, businesses can develop their workforce, while individuals can gain paid work experience and classroom instruction. They are for people of all ages, including high school students, traditional college-age students and adult learners. It offers an “earn to learn” opportunity, Andersen said.

“We know that the on-the-job mentors are the ones who really make or break the apprenticeship program,” Andersen said, “so Northeast has developed a six-hour mentor training to prepare these individuals for that new role. Apprentices will also take five courses from Northeast for a total of 172 contact hours of classroom instruction.”

The program takes about one year to complete, and is competency based. It allows students to progress, based on skills they learn. Some go on to earn diplomas or associate degrees from Northeast.

Guenther said Early Childhood Education classes at Northeast are offered through the HyFlex delivery method, which includes online, Zoom and face-to-face for each session. It is the student’s choice.

“This allows for childcare providers already in the workforce to come back to college to get their Early Childhood Education degree to provide higher quality care for the children in their centers and in home locations,” Guenther said. “This also allows our traditional students to be working in the childcare professions, helping with the childcare shortage, while they are earning their degree.”

 Dover said increasing the number of early childhood care professionals will increase the number of options for working families. In Nebraska, 74% under 6 live in households where all available parents or guardians are in the workforce. However, there has been an 11% decrease in the number of childcare workers from 2018 to 2022.

The interim study shall cover:

* The growing need for early childhood care and education in Nebraska;
* The registered apprenticeship programs for early childhood care and education at the United States Department of Labor; 

* The available federal resources for the establishment of such programs; 

* The education infrastructure in the state to support such programs and existing state resources for such programs; 

* Any public-private partnership opportunities for expanding the instruction and training infrastructure of early childhood care workers and educators.

Later on the morning of Dec. 1, the Education Committee received a briefing on Title IX. Northeast’s Carly Krause, who is the director of compensation and HR compliance, attended in case any questions came up for her to help answer.

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Lisa Guenther, Northeast Community College’s early childhood education instructor, was among two Northeast representatives who testified recently before the Nebraska Legislature’s Education Committee on LR251. Kim Andersen, Northeast’s associate director of apprenticeship for workforce development, also testified. (Northeast Community College)