Students in the Child Development center. (Tarrant County College)

Tarrant County College, together with Camp Fire First Texas Early Education Apprenticeship Program (EEAP), was recently awarded a $120,000 Texas Workforce Commission ApprenticeshipTexas Expansion grant to train early childhood educators. Funding will support the ongoing partnership, which provides early education teachers working with children age 0 – 5 a pathway for educational and career advancement, to earn increased wages and college credit for professional certifications.

This grant will help strengthen and expand Camp Fire Early Education Program in two fundamental areas:

  1. Provide an Apprentice Navigator at TCC to administer the grant and review reports prepared by EEAP director for TWC. TCC will also audit U.S. Department of Labor RAPIDS reporting system reports.
  2. Expand access of the program to 60 apprentices. This is triple the number of apprentices registered during 2020, the inaugural year of the program.

“Tarrant County College is honored to be a trusted partner for the Camp Fire Early Education Apprenticeship Program,” said Lisa Self, associate professor of child development and education at TCC Northeast. “With this expansion grant, more students will have the opportunity to transition from the apprenticeship program to Tarrant County College and on to Tarleton State University, if they choose.  This is a higher education opportunity that some students might not have ever thought possible.”

The Camp Fire Early Education Apprenticeship Program (EEAP) is the first early education apprenticeship program of its kind in Texas and is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor. It welcomed the first class of 20 apprentices in August 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all training, mentoring and course work has been done virtually, allowing the program to reach a wider geography than originally planned.

“When Camp Fire conceived and began building this program we knew strong partnerships, not only with fellow early education advocate organizations, but also with higher education entities, was a critical component to deliver lasting change and recognition for the professionals in this career,” explained Eboni Kelly, director of Camp Fire EEAP. “TCC is one of two local higher education partners and community organizational partners that have championed this trailblazing program.”

The EEAP is an “earn while you learn” paid apprenticeship program for early childhood educators encompassing direct education experience hours, coursework hours, and competency-based observational hours and exams. The completed EEAP can serve as a stand-alone educational requirement, a career enhancement into an early education specialty or as a pipeline into college.

As a Higher Education Partner, TCC creates pathways for early educators to earn college credit while working and learning on-the-job.

The EEAP acts as a system-change program impacting the way the North Texas early childhood education industry engages with educational and career pathway support for teachers, directors and other early childhood education professionals.

“Camp Fire First Texas launched the EEAP after more than a decade of research gathered through implementation of a school readiness program. We found that improving the access to mentoring, knowledge, professionalism and confidence of teachers in the classroom improved the quality of learning and social emotional competency of the children in their classrooms,” Kelly said.

Research shows that more than 85 percent of brain development occurs in the first three years of life. Gaps in behavioral and cognitive development are present in children as young as nine months old. Responsive caregivers have the power to mitigate these gaps and that is one of many reasons it is crucial these educators receive quality training and support.

The value of apprenticeships is clear.

“Because of the funding that has been established for the Early Education Apprenticeship Program and the new expansion grant, students not only have the opportunity to explore higher education, but have monetary incentives to complete the program and guaranteed pay increases as a part of the apprenticeship program,” Self said.  “Through the TEACH Early Childhood Program, which provides scholarships to childcare providers working in centers that receive subsidies, they can continue their higher education goals with continued scholarships.  This will help students to complete their degree(s) without the burden of loans or debt, which is a great incentive to complete, rather than entering higher education on a more traditional path.”

Learn more about the program and to apply, visit https://bit.ly/3noc3az.

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