Advancing the ECE Profession – A Focus on the Existing Workforce

By Susan Titterton, Project Coordinator

A thread through the January 28th Task Force meeting was deepening our thinking about strategies for honoring the existing workforce.

Jenny Stearns, ECE Coordinator and faculty member at Saint Michael’s College, presented her experience as a board member of the newly reopened Early Learning Center (ELC). As the center planned its reopening, they applied aspects of the Unifying Framework for the Early Childhood Education Profession – specifically the three designations with related compensation. Any existing staff at the center who wanted to stay, would have a place. The challenge was to create a fair, transparent way of assessing each person’s education and experience to determine their designation. There were multiple steps:

  • New job title – Early Childhood Educator
  • New job descriptions – ECE I, ECE II, ECE III
  • Education levels – CDA or equivalent, Associate degree, Bachelor’s degree
  • Hiring decisions: At least one ECE level III in each room, (supervisory role) with equity across all age ranges (birth to PK)
  • Hiring challenges: Figure out equivalencies for degrees in other fields that also take into account years of experience and hours of accredited PD
  • Professional Development: Everyone is working on a PDP and we are currently exploring ways for ECEs at levels I and II to access degree programs if they wish to
  • Compensation: Salary range set for each designation, including benefits package

While the ELC is only able to implement some parts of the Unifying Framework – and all the parts need to be in place for it to work – this example provides some ideas about “the bridge” for the existing workforce.

Updates on outreach to existing workforce about the Unifying Framework:

  • “Three Designations with Aligned Preparation Pathways” – Over 300 have participated in sessions on this discussion draft and 174 have completed the survey. The Task Force will analyze what we’ve heard and create a Consensus Document by early March.
  • “Professional Compensation” – The discussion draft is finished and will be on the VTAEYC website soon. PD sessions are being created and will begin in March.

Task Force members had these closing reflections on this day:

– I think we can get caught up on the way things are right now and wonder how people are going to fit into this idea of the future. For years, many people have come into this field haphazardly. What we ultimately want is for this to be seen as a profession, as something you plan to enter.  So, in high school, or in those early years of college, you would already be thinking “I want to be an early childhood educator.” Then, people would be coming into the field with the education already. For the first few years, we will have to think about a bridge, about the supports for the existing workforce to get there. But ultimately, we won’t have to worry about that because in the future people would follow the pathway to get where they want to go.

– Sometimes it’s really hard for people to see the future. We have to help them to do that.

– It’s important to acknowledge the vulnerable place that people are in now. The existing workforce is in the most vulnerable place and they’re also the most important voices to hear. We have to approach that with a level of empathy and seek to understand, not just respond from our own experience.