Professional Development Advisory Council

Who They Are

The Professional Development Advisory Council (PDAC) is a group of highly qualified practitioners, educators, and advocates from around the state. PDAC was created in December 2002 by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Bureau of Child Care and Development, and introduced Gateways to Opportunity statewide in March 2005. Gateways to Opportunity is the Illinois state professional development system for early care and education, school-age, and youth development professionals. PDAC’s overall strategy is to improve the stability of the early care and education workforce through increased professional development and improved opportunities for career advancement. PDAC members are accomplishing this goal through their dedicated efforts and involvement in PDAC committees. PDAC holds five statewide meetings a year, including an annual stakeholders meeting.

What They Believe

The partners involved in this collaborative effort are committed to developing an integrated statewide professional development system. Additional goals are to promote professionalism within the early care and education, school-age, and youth development fields and provide opportunities and compensation for professionals to further their education and training. The system is accessible and affordable to practitioners across Illinois working in these fields. PDAC partners recognize that these goals are achievable only through collaboration with statewide, regional, and local organizations and funding entities (private and public) committed to this common purpose.

Our Vision:

Illinois early care and education, school-age, youth development, and family support practitioners are well-qualified professionals who nurture and support the development and learning of children, youth, and families.

Our Mission:

To develop, support, and promote a professional development system for all early care and education, school-age, youth development, and family support practitioners.

Our Values:

We believe an effective professional development system is inclusive of practitioners in all settings serving children, youth, and families; service providers and program staff; and educators and trainers.

We value a Professional Development System that:

  • Reaches across all geographic areas
  • Includes diverse representation of culture, linguistics, ability, ethnicity, gender, and age
  • Is accessible, affordable, and diverse in opportunities
  • Develops and expands core knowledge, skills, and dispositions
  • Respects and cultivates education, training, and experience
  • Recognizes and equitably compensates achievement based on levels of competence
  • Supports inclusive, high-quality culturally responsive care and education for all children, youth, and families in all settings

Learn more by reading the PDAC Strategic Plan 2015–2018.

How They Are Helping

PDAC’s Gateways to Opportunity is designed to:

  • Encourage professionals of diverse backgrounds to obtain more education and training
  • Provide recognition to professionals with specialized training at different levels of education
  • Unify the different aspects of the early care and education field by building consistency among settings
  • Ensure that early care and education professionals have online access to a central resource for career opportunities and the education and training required to advance within the field
  • Help ease barriers to completing college coursework
  • Make it possible for transfer students to receive credit for their early childhood coursework
  • Meet the growing demand for certified teachers
  • Promote the most efficient use of professional development resources

Project Administration and Structure


The Professional Development Advisory Council (PDAC) develops recommendations related to the design and implementation of the professional development system and other professional development initiatives and activities.



Financial Supports Committee

  • Build consensus across the state about equitable compensation, benefits and workplace conditions.  
  • Broaden parameters for the Gateways Scholarship Program.
  • Analyze current financial supports for efficiency and effectiveness in alignment to state partner agencies priorities.

Information and Trends Committee

  • Identify key research questions related to Gateways to Opportunity Illinois Professional Development System.
  • Establish and implement a framework for disseminating information.
  • Synthesize available information, trends, research and policy around issues critical to professional development and professional development systems.
  • Explore innovative professional development practices in other states.

PDAC Governance Committee

  • Create and implement a leadership development plan.
  • Maintain well-defined processes and protocols to support PDAC.

Qualifications and Credentials Committee

  • Pilot, review, develop and implement Gateways to Opportunity Credentials.
  • Improve access and incentivizing of Gateways to Opportunity Credentials.
  • Determine if current coursework and training is sufficient to meet the needs of practitioners to achieve Gateways to Opportunity Credentials

Workforce Development and Pathways Committee

  • Develop a more comprehensive career lattice that clearly articulates varied pathways in the system.
  • Analyze stackability of credentials, and how they are offered and utilized, with the goal of providing multiple pathways.  
  • Explore how levers and supports, including scholarships and Great START, can be used to strengthen credentials.
  • Create continuity between DCFS and credentials.
  • Explore responsive practices for direct and entitled routes and supporting credential attainment.
  • Support state efforts for meaningful articulation between 2- and 4- year institutions.



PDAC Committees



Gateways to Opportunity is funded by public and private support including the McCormick Foundation, the Grand Victoria Foundation,    

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