A nearly $200,000 federal grant will be used to help low-wage adults already working in early childhood education earn college credits and move up in their careers.
Classes begin in spring through a collaboration launched by Whatcom Community College and Skagit Valley College.
The colleges formed the Northwest Corner Professional Development Partnership in Early Learning, and earned the grant for the workplace-based effort. The money will go toward 40 scholarships split between the two schools.
Organizers said the program will help assistant teachers, aides and those workers with limited credentials that prevent them from advancing in their careers.
It’s geared toward those who teach and care for children from birth through age 8 in a variety of settings, including child development centers, family childcare homes and Head Start programs.
These workers don’t often have a chance for career advancement because they’re busy balancing work and family, organizers said, and may not have the money to enroll in college courses.
The scholarships will pay for needs such as tuition, textbook and individualized support. Students will earn nine college credits, and the coursework will include an online instruction component to accommodate busy work schedules.
“They can work on the weekend. They can do it at 4:30 a.m. They can zip in during their lunch break. It gives much more flexibility to the working professional,” said Sally Holloway, education programs coordinator for Whatcom Community College.
The program blends coursework, online instruction, and mentors at the college and at the workplace.
Students who complete the program will qualify for higher-paid positions that could, for example, increase a beginning educator’s salary in the field from minimum wage to $11 an hour.
The grant came through the U.S. Department of Labor and is among the first the department has awarded to an early learning program, according to Holloway. It recognizes the importance of improving the skills of childcare workers who, in turn, provide a foundation for kids before they enter the education system.
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HOW TO APPLY
Application deadline is March 9. Classes begin in spring.
Interested students or employers should contact the college in their community.
The contact for Whatcom Community College is Sally Holloway at 360-383-3224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The contact for Skagit Valley College is Barbara Martinez Griego at 360-416-7787 or email@example.com.