Troy University and its Coleman Center for Early Learning, in partnership with Wallace Community College, the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, made history Wednesday by establishing Alabama’s first apprenticeship for early childhood educators.
In alignment with the goals of the Success Plus plan and Governor Kay Ivey’s “Strong Start, Strong Finish” initiative, the Early Childhood Educator Apprenticeship will increase the quality of care in the early childhood setting, create opportunities to upskill incumbent workers and articulate coursework seamlessly between the community college and university. The apprenticeship allows apprentices to complete stackable credentials and earn a Child Development Associate certification, an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, all while employed with a child care provider.
“This apprenticeship is definitely a step in the right direction towards building the early education workforce pathway. Research tells us that 95 percent of a child’s brain is formed through the first five years, and our state’s youngest learners need well-prepared educators and high-quality early learning environments to maximize this time in their development,” said Dr. Barbara Cooper, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. “As we expand Alabama’s first-class Pre-K program and improve the early childhood workforce around the state, there is definitely going to be a need for highly-qualified early childhood professionals. We are thankful to have had such wonderful partners on what has been a journey to establish this EEC apprenticeship.”
All apprenticeships involve two types of learning—on-the-job learning (OJL) with a mentor and related technical instruction (RTI) with a teacher. The OJL competencies for each level are taken from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) competencies, and the RTI for Level I includes three Child Development (CHD) courses at the community college level and earning a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. The RTI for Level II ends with an associate degree in General Studies, including 18 hours of CHD electives that articulate to the 4-year institution. The RTI for Level III ends with a bachelor’s degree in ECE with a Preschool-3rd grade teaching certificate.
There is no cost for apprentices to participate in a registered program in Alabama, and participants will also earn progressive wages while they are learning. To offset the cost of the early childhood apprenticeship for the employer, all apprentices will apply for FAFSA, TEACH scholarships, Leadership in Childcare Scholarships and C3 Scholarships. They will also work with the Business Service Representative at the Dothan Career Center to seek additional funding through WIOA and other grants. If there is any remaining cost for training due, this will be covered by ADECE, Troy University and The Coleman Center.
TROY’s tradition of commitment to teaching excellence dates back to its founding in 1887 when an act of the Alabama Legislature established Troy State Normal School as an institution to train teachers. In 1929, the State Board of Education changed the charter of the institution and renamed it Troy State Teacher’s College.
Dr. Kerry Palmer, Dean of Education, said this opportunity has allowed TROY to get back to its roots.
“It was Walter Peyton who said, ‘If you forget your roots, you’ve lost sight of everything,’ and the roots of our University are teacher education and laboratory schools. The centerpiece of that teacher’s college on our campus in Troy was our laboratory school where many students in the Troy community went through that elementary school and where our students who were training to become school teachers learned as apprentices,” Palmer said. “Now, we have the opportunity to go back to our roots and have a lab school here at The Coleman Center and have fine teachers come through and move from what some people term as just a daycare worker to a fully credentialed, licensed early childhood specialist.”
Labrea Potter and A’nya Godwin are the first two apprentices to sign on with the program and will serve as the pilot group this fall. Potter holds an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Development from Wallace Community College and is an undergraduate student in TROY’s Early Childhood Education Program. A 2009 graduate of Ashford High School, Potter is the mother of a nine-year old son and 14-year old step-daughter. She began working at the Coleman Center in 2019.
“I love being an educator for young children, and I enjoy learning new ways to teach small children,” she said.
Godwin earned an associate’s degree in science from Wallace Community College in 2019 and an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Development from Wallace in 2021. She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at TROY. She is the daughter of Lounorris and Anita Godwin and has three younger siblings.
“I love working at Troy University’s Coleman Center for Early Learning and Family Enrichment because I am able to be a part of building the foundation for developing the minds of our future leaders,” Godwin said.
The next steps include expanding the pilot to other Birth to 5 employers and including additional educational partners starting at the high school level.