By Chloe Learey, Executive Director
Graduation season begins a time of opportunities and new beginnings. For those leaving high school, it is a major step towards a career whether into another level of education or directly into the workforce. It is exciting and scary to consider where your path might lead.
One career that benefits our community in multiple ways is early childhood education. Having good teachers makes it possible for families to participate in the workforce knowing their children are in a high-quality early learning environment. Having good teachers also helps give our youngest citizens the strong foundation they need to be ready for school and beyond. The earliest years are critical for brain development with over 90% of the brain being developed by the age of 5, before children even get to kindergarten. No wonder it is so important to have excellent teachers in early childhood education!
One of the exciting things about early childhood education is the variety of opportunities there are for being a teacher. Child care is a ‘mixed delivery system’ in our state and people can work in different environments depending on their own needs and interests. Some educators might opt for opening a program in their home, others might work at a private center-based program, either for-profit or non-profit, and still others may work in a program based out of a public school. Visit http://winstonprouty.org/careers-in-early-childhood/ for more information about resources to get started on a career in early childhood.
With the recent closing of the Early Childhood Program at the Windham Regional Career Center (WRCC), entering the field of early childhood education as a career path became more difficult locally. There were several factors contributing to that decision and the Child Care Counts Coalition (http://winstonprouty.org/child-care-counts/) recently advocated for the formation of an advisory committee to draft a proposal to re-instate the program to the WRCC Regional Advisory board. Part of the presentation included a student who just graduated from Community College of Vermont after having started in the early childhood program at the Career Center, and who will now be a lead teacher in the program where she started while in high school. This story could be told many times over if the program starts again. A lack of qualified teachers is a factor that significantly limits maintaining and expanding child care slots in our region. A lack of child care makes it difficult to attract a workforce in the target demographic of “young professionals.” If we want a vibrant local economy, we need to make it easy for people to enter the field of early education. Additionally, we will have to figure out how to increase wages in this very low-paying field if we want to retain good teachers.
One way entering the field became easier this year was with the start of the accelerated child care certificate program at CCV. It can be completed on-line in as little in four semesters and gives the student 24 college credits (https://ccv.edu/2019/01/10/introducing-the-accelerated-childcare-certificate/). Programs like this can significantly help jump start someone’s career especially with scholarship programs and employer support for professional development.
Early Childhood Education is a career that makes a difference in the world. It is rewarding to be part of helping children learn and grow into their best selves. It is important to love being with children if you want to be in the field, and it is equally important to like adults, too. Young children are embedded in families, their first and most important teacher. Partnering with families is an essential part of the job to make sure that children are successful. Let’s continue to work towards a world that recognizes the value of early childhood education by encouraging those who are called to consider a career and finding a way to make it a financially rewarding career as well.