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Groundbreaking Apprenticeship Program for Pre-K Teachers Launches in Philadelphia

Apprentices will earn Associate’s Degrees in Early Childhood Education through the first-of-its-kind program 

Harrisburg, PA - March 9th, 2017: The Pennsylvania Apprenticeship & Training Council has approved a first-of-its-kind Registered Apprenticeship Program for entry-level Early Childhood Education teachers working towards their Associate’s Degree.

Sponsored by Philadelphia’s District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund, the new Apprenticeship Program awards workers who hold a “Child Development Associate” or CDA – an entry-level professional certification for Early Childhood Education (ECE) teachers – credit for prior experience and on-the-job learning, enabling them to finish the Community College of Philadelphia Associate’s Degree in Education course sequence on an accelerated timetable, while continuing to work full-time. Apprentices will also receive four wage increases during the two-year program, with raises tied to academic and professional progress.

While other ECE Apprenticeships exist in the United States, this program breaks new ground by establishing a CDA-to-Associate’s Degree pipeline for incumbent workers. “This program creates a new opportunity for men and women working full-time, often for very low wages,” explained Training Fund Executive Director Cheryl Feldman. “Too often there is not a lot of money to go around in the Early Childhood sector, and the employers we are working with have been trying to figure out how to create realistic options for their entry-level teachers who want to work hard, study hard, and advance in their careers. The Apprenticeship model works for employers, and it works for teachers. It rewards progress, and provides the support and mentorship that these workers need in order to achieve that progress.”

The new program for ECE teachers uses the same Registered Apprenticeship structure as programs in the building trades and other “traditional” Apprenticeship fields – a combination of mutually-reinforcing classroom instruction and mentored on-the-job learning. Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) is providing the Apprentices’ classroom instruction and awarding the Associate’s Degree to successful completers; experienced teachers will provide the on-the-job mentoring with support from the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC).

Each Apprentice will be “sponsored” by their employer, who will have a major role to play in supporting the program – from selecting mentors to overseeing and awarding credit for on-the-job learning, employers need to be active and engaged participants in Apprenticeship. “Our employer partners have been great allies in envisioning and developing this program,” said Feldman. “I especially want to thank the pioneer employers who were here in Harrisburg today to register Pennsylvania’s very first Apprentices – Brightside Academy in partnership with the United Child Care Union, Montgomery Early Learning Centers, and Smart Beginnings Early Learning Center.”

Employers will participate in one of two program models: Montgomery Early Learning Centers (MELC) and Smart Beginnings are the first two employers in a multi-employer “group” program managed by the Training Fund, and overseen by a Committee of employer and non-profit organization representatives. Brightside’s program is jointly sponsored by the employer and the Apprentice’s labor union, the United Child Care Union (UCCU), an affiliate of AFSCME and the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees.

“MELC is excited to be a part of this important initiative that supports our current teachers to help them obtain an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree while still working full time in the field,” commented Ann O’Brien, CEO. “This is something that MELC identified as a major need and we are thankful that The Training Fund and the other partners reached out to us to develop a demonstration project that would work for our employees and serve as an example for other providers in the years to come.”

Brightside Academy echoed these views following approval of the state’s first joint labor-management ECE Apprenticeship. “Brightside Academy is both proud and honored to participate in the ECE Apprenticeship program,” commented Kareema A'Haamid, a Corporate Trainer for Brightside’s Philadelphia facilities. “We are dedicated to ensuring that our children receive quality early learning experiences by making sure that they have highly qualified teachers. This program is a remarkable opportunity to demonstrate the commitment and professionalism of the educators in this field and we could not be happier than to sponsoring Mr. Rashied Rowe as the first Apprentice in a program of this caliber.”

The CDA-to-Associate’s Degree Registered Apprenticeship Program for Philadelphia Early Childhood Education Providers is funded by the William Penn Foundation, with additional support from the Public Health Management Corporation-sponsored Southeast Regional Key, United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey, Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Education, and Pennsylvania Office of Child Development & Early Learning. Additional funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry “Non-Traditional Apprenticeships” initiative have provided valuable early support for the program’s development and implementation.

“This new apprenticeship program will dramatically improve pathways for early childhood educators to further their own education, enhance the instruction they offer to our children, enable them to advance in their careers, and improve the quality of early childhood education in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth,” said Elliot Weinbaum, Program Director for Great Learning at the William Penn Foundation. “At the same time, this program builds on the strongest elements of apprenticeship programs and creates a model that will help meet the growing need for more highly-qualified teachers.

For more information about the program, contact Training Fund Executive Director Cheryl Feldman at

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Created in 1974 by collective bargaining agreements between District 1199C of the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees (NUHHCE) and Philadelphia hospitals, the District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund has grown to include more than 50 acute care hospitals, long term care and behavioral health facilities, and homecare agencies. A uniquely designed labor management partnership, the Training Fund broke new ground at its founding with a commitment to serve both union members and the community. 

Today, the Training Fund serves over 5,000 students annually at the 35,000-square foot Breslin Learning Center in Center City Philadelphia. The Fund’s student-centered approach to education and training incorporates individualized career coaching and case management to help individuals obtain the educational credentials and professional certifications they will need to achieve their academic and career goals. Uniquely, though, all fund training programs are designed on an integrated educational model that advances students towards their academic and career goals simultaneously, incorporating contextualized workforce preparation into academic courses and literacy supports into occupational courses.

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The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia Region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability, and enable effective solutions. Since inception, the Foundation has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling over $1.6 billion.