Supporting diversity in the early childhood workforce

This study examines the early childhood workforce’s experiences in higher education, focusing on African-American and Latina staff who hold an Associate’s degree or less. The study examines a pilot program aimed to support the transfer of these students from a community college to the nearby California State University (CSU) campus, and a comparison group of ECE professionals not currently enrolled in the program. As the State of California considers requiring early childhood teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree, this study is significant by addressing the potential impact of BA mandates on the diversity of the ECE workforce. Data were drawn from focus groups and follow-up interviews with experienced staff from two large licensed early childhood sites serving predominantly African-American and Latino children and families. A comparison focus group was conducted with members of a pilot BA completion program, who were also longtime members of the ECE workforce, and demographically similar to the other participants. Findings emphasize the academic challenges this segment of the ECE workforce faces due to lack of inter-institutional alignment between community colleges and the California State University system. The participants also reveal the impact of counselors, peers, and employers on the transfer process. Issues arose around participants’ basic skills in math and English, and the key role played by faculty in keeping these ECE workforce members engaged and persisting towards a BA. Recommendations suggest the value of 2+2 BA completion programs such as the pilot program to help coordinate the resources of the community colleges and CSUs and maintain the diversity of the ECE workforce.