The North Country Career Center(NCCC) in Newport, in partnership with Northern Lights at CCV and Northeast Kingdom Learning Services (NEKLS), recently launched a new program, “Step Up To Childcare”, an innovative project designed to address the skilled labor shortage in the childcare profession and pair childcare centers with potential teachers through a paid internship. The program is funded through a Workforce Education and Training grant from the Vermont Department of Labor.
The idea for the program was developed through a collaboration between Gwen Bailey-Rowe, Assistant Director for Adult Education at NCCC; Michelle Tarryk, Executive Director for NEKLS; Cindy Robillard, from the Vermont Department of Labor and Joanne Rouleau from Northern Lights at CCV. The need for trained staff within the childcare profession was identified by the group as a priority, and the “Step Up To Childcare” program began to take shape!
The program is approximately 60 hours of classroom time. It began in May with two days of general orientation and was based on a curriculum developed by staff at NEKLS called “Primed for Success”. The topics for the orientation included: Intro to Positive Psychology and Character Strengths; Time and Stress Management: Developing Resilience; Professional Communication; Workplace Ethics; Mindfulness; Resume Review and Interview Techniques. A CPR/First Aid training and the on-line Vermont Childcare Orientation were also part of the orientation schedule. Beginning in June, the students started Fundamentals for Early Childhood Professionals, a 45-hour class at CCV, which is also open to anyone working in the field that needs it to meet childcare licensing requirements. In addition, the students were given the option to complete the VT On-Line Mandated Reporter Training.
The unique component of this program is a paid 240-hour internship at one of several local childcare centers that have agreed to partner with NCCC to host an intern at their center. Each intern will receive a $1700 stipend to “jump start” their career in the field. The paid internships begin during the fourth week of the “Fundamentals” class, and the students must pass the CPR/First Aid class; complete the VT Childcare Orientation on-line training, and prepare a resume before being recommended for an internship. Upon acceptance into the program, all students completed a background check form and fingerprinting through the Orleans County Sheriff Department.
The grant, as written, was able to support 10 students, and 7 were enrolled. The class is a diverse group of adult learners, between the ages of 17 and 50, and includes individuals seeking a career change; recent graduates; and people that have been out of the workforce and are seeking a way to transition back to full time employment in a rewarding field. Upon completion of the program, the students will have acquired the skills and knowledge that will support achieving a Level One certificate on the Northern Lights Early Childhood Career Ladder and becoming a Teacher Assistant in a licensed childcare center.
Ms. Bailey-Rowe spoke about the importance of including college/career advising as part of the program, presenting a career pathway for students to consider, such as continuing their education at CCV or another institution of higher learning in the early childhood field. The program was designed to encourage participants to explore all options open to them and at the same time be a way to address the workforce issues that exist in this region in a new, innovative way.