Smart Start Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program

Smart Start Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Division of Early Childhood (DEC) is piloting an apprenticeship program to bridge and connect scholarship programs leading to credentials and degrees with on-the-job/real-world training and mentorship tailored to the context of the specific communities where apprentices work. The program will incorporate child care program contracts, specifically to provide funding for participating centers for increased compensation based on staff qualifications. This unique component of DEC's Apprenticeship model complements existing efforts underway to upskill staff through scholarship programs by materially supporting employers with funding for increasing compensation therefore, incentivizing child care program directors to support their staff in going back to school as well as bringing a new generation of caregivers and teachers into the workforce.

Apprenticeship Equity Statement:
Our Smart Start Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program and our general approach to innovative reforms for early childhood systems build on the equity principles developed for the University of Illinois Chicago's Alternative Licensure Program.

These include:

  • Explicitly stating that our childcare workforce crisis is rooted in historic racism and sexism and, as such, our workforce has had limited access and opportunity to advance their education and as frontline workers have borne the burden of a broken early childhood system;
  • Inverting the deficit models of professional development and instead focus on strengths and assets, particularly the community cultural wealth of our incumbent workforce;
  • Intensive support at the place of employment. This includes careful consideration of the workplace conditions that support the professional development of the workforce; and
  • Inclusion of a developmental and longitudinal evaluation that includes surveys, focus groups and individual interviews to elevate their voices, expertise, and needs.
  • Illinois State Board of Education (Equity Standards)
  • Illinois Early Learning Council

Committee Meeting Minutes

Committee Meeting Recording

Participating Pilot Programs

Higher Education Partners

Excelerate Program

ExceleRate Illinois helps you prepare children for success in school and in life.

It also provides standards, guidelines, resources and supports to help you make sensible changes that lead to better quality outcomes for children.