Organizations from St. Louis and Kansas City have partnered with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (MDHEWD) to address the shortage of childcare workers in the state.
By Jason Strickland
YWCA Metro St. Louis, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, and Full Employment Council, through $3.3 million in funding from MDHEWD’s Office of Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning (OAWBL), have created the “Interstate Partnership Agreement” to serve hundreds of apprentices that pursue a career as a childcare worker.
The goal of the Childhood Development Associate Registered Apprenticeship Training Program is to provide more than 250 Missourians with an apprenticeship in the childcare industry throughout the Kansas City, St. Louis and southwest areas of the state.
“Missouri is ranked third in new apprentices, and we strive to keep delivering opportunities for our citizens to earn a paycheck while also training for a career,” said Julie Carter, director of the Office of Workforce Development. “This apprenticeship program will help address the shortage of childcare workers and give more Missouri families access to quality childcare.”
According to a 2021 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, childcare issues result in an estimated $1.35 billion loss annually for Missouri’s economy.
“This historic partnership is critical and gives us an opportunity to address a very real and challenging crisis in early childhood education over a longer term,” said Michael P. McMillan, president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. “The ability to create a pipeline of highly trained educators ready to go into the classroom and impact learning for our children is priceless.”
The Kansas City area (Cass, Clay, Jackson, Platte, and Ray counties) has 414 licensed childcare programs and 82,172 children under 6 years old with working parents, according to Child Care Aware of Missouri.
“Our mutual objectives are to facilitate a career pathway for early childhood development professionals,” said Clyde McQueen, president and chief executive officer of the Full Employment Council. “Currently, in the Kansas City region, we have a shortage of more than 62,000 childcare slots, directly related to the shortage of childcare professionals. Concurrently, we have 85,000 job openings in our region. Addressing the shortage of childcare professionals will enable more parents to apply for the jobs that exist. More childcare professionals increase childcare capacity, enabling potential and existing employees to have the opportunity to apply for more jobs, work a variety of job shifts, and pursue skill-training programs. This interstate initiative is a win-win for the State of Missouri, the cities of Kansas City and St. Louis, and most of all, the parents and employers in our state.”
The St. Louis area (St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, and Jefferson City) has 715 licensed childcare programs and 123,554 children under 6 years old with working parents, according to Child Care Aware of Missouri.
YWCA Metro St. Louis’ Early Education Program serves 1,229 children and their families through Prenatal Services, Early Head Start and Head Start, and is directly impacted by the shortage of qualified staff. This shortage of roughly 22% directly impacts the program’s ability to meet the demand for childcare — and is what led to the development of a pre-credentialing program to identify individuals who are interested in serving young children and their families in the St. Louis region.
“We created a solution to our problem because one did not exist elsewhere,” said Stacy Johnson, YWCA chief program officer and Head Start director. “Our Successful Pathways™ apprenticeship leverages several YWCA services so that a candidate is fully supported during the time they are in our program. We’re so pleased to be invited into this pilot and are grateful for the additional exposure it will provide as we try to attract more childcare professionals to the region and the state.”
Successful Pathways™ is a U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program and a pre-credentialing program designed to prepare a future professional for a Child Development Associate (CDA®) credential — the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education, and a key steppingstone on the path of career advancement.
“Solutions and success will come more quickly when we join forces to solve a problem in a crisis — and this problem is a national crisis. I am proud of our team, our region and our state for the innovation and the alignment that can be held up as an example across the country,” said Dr. Cheryl Watkins, president and chief executive officer at YWCA Metro St. Louis.