Removing the Barriers to Careers in Early Childhood Education

From childcare workers and kindergarten teachers to program managers and policy analysts, the career opportunities in the early childhood education (ECE) field are many and varied.

A new Early Childhood Education Pathways/Apprenticeship Program is helping to pave the way for more students to prepare for those careers, removing many of the barriers that can stand in the way. 

About 20 students have signed on for the program’s first cohort, which started in August. A year-long introductory ECE class at Soledad Adult School will be followed by enrollment in ECE classes at the Hartnell College Soledad Education Center beginning in August 2022. Cohorts will receive ongoing support and guidance with enrollment, financial aid, counseling, tutoring and other wraparound services.

Limited English proficiency and college readiness are common barriers to entry, says Ivan R. Pagan, director of the Salinas Valley Adult Education Consortium (SVAEC), and they are particularly significant in South Monterey County communities. So the first year of classroom instruction focuses on English language development, an introduction to Early Childhood Education, and a student success seminar to help prepare them for college-level ECE coursework.

In their second year of the program, students will be placed into paid apprenticeships with local early childhood education providers.

By removing language and income barriers, the program goes far in addressing issues of equity for disadvantaged communities, says Pagan.

The Salinas Valley Adult Education Consortium (SVAEC), a consortium of seven adult education programs in the Salinas Valley, is partnering in the development of the Early Childhood Education Pathways/Apprenticeship Program with Bright Beginnings, Hartnell College, Monterey County Office of Education, Soledad Adult School, and United Way Monterey County

Students in the initial cohort mostly draw from South County, says Pagan, but the hope is that other adult schools in the region will sign on so the program can expand.

“We’re addressing a critical need,” says Pagan. “ECE providers can’t find enough people, and there’s a real shortage both in the childcare field and in the teaching field.”

Pagan said the Early Childhood Education Pathways/Apprenticeship Program is designed to serve each student’s individual journey: Students who want to work in a child care center may join the workforce after completing as little as six units, while others may continue on to earn a bachelor’s degree and teaching credential, or alternate periods of education with employment, leaving and rejoining the program as needed.

A second cohort starts in fall 2022.
Photo courtesy of Hartnell College. Pictured, children playing at the Child Development Center at Hartnell.