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Gov. Holcomb’s 2024 Next Level Agenda prioritizes early childhood education workforce

Last Updated on January 30, 2024 by Office of Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb

Indiana’s workforce training programs to offer early childhood education and child care credentials

INDIANAPOLIS – Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced today the addition of early childhood education and child care credential training options under Indiana’s signature workforce training programs. As part of his 2024 Next Level Agenda announced earlier this month, the governor pledged to open existing financial aid dollars for early childhood professions that will help grow the state’s child care and preschool workforce pipeline.

“Child care is an important issue that has increasingly become a key workforce issue,” Gov. Holcomb said. “It’s critical that parents have access to quality child care, and quality child care starts with ensuring that the professionals caring for children are well prepared and receiving the necessary tools and appropriate training that prioritizes the safety of some our youngest Hoosiers.”

The training programs will be funded through the Workforce Ready Grant and Employer Training Grant. Implemented jointly by the Commission for Higher Education and Department of Workforce Development, the Workforce Ready Grant covers the tuition and fees for individuals trained through qualifying certificate programs, which now includes credentials such as the Child Development Associate and other early childhood education programs. The Employer Training Grant reimburses employers who train, hire and retain workers in high-demand positions. The program can be used for both new and preexisting employees.

“We are excited about the outcome this effort will have on our talent pool and the addition of certified and committed staff throughout the state,” said Courtney Penn, Director of the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. “Birth to age five are the most critical years in a person’s life, making it imperative the child care workers we’re putting in our early learning environments are well-rounded and top notch.” 

The state continues its efforts to add high-quality child care programs, and attracting more well-trained child care workers is critical to that effort. Shortages and turnover at child care programs hinder access to quality care Hoosier workers need for their families. Recent state grant opportunities supported businesses and communities in adding nearly 100 new child care solutions including on-site or near-site child care, backup care and tri-share programs for working Hoosiers, and created openings for more than 1,500 children throughout the state.

“The expansion of the Next Level Jobs programs to include youth education and development occupations will have a great impact on our state as early childhood education provides a foundation for future learning and growth,” said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Chris Lowery. “Indiana has a critical need for early childhood education and child development professionals. The Workforce Ready Grant will help meet that need and place more Hoosiers in high-demand roles leading to greater social and economic mobility and prosperity.”

Since 2017, the Workforce Ready Grant has helped over 47,000 Hoosiers complete credential training in high-wage, high-demand careers. Now, the financial aid program will also assist training and upskilling in the high-value, high-demand sector of early childhood education. The employer Training Grant has helped 1,400 employers upskill nearly 17,000 workers.

“It is imperative that Indiana is aware of and responsive to its workforce needs,” Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development Richard Paulk said. “By adding early childhood education training to the list of eligible Next Level Jobs programs, Indiana is demonstrating its commitment to strengthening our child care and early childhood education workforce, ensuring that Indiana’s working families have access to high-quality care and early learning settings.”

Hoosiers can begin applying for early childhood education under the Workforce Ready Grant beginning February 1, 2024. Individual eligibility criteria and training program options will be available on NextLevelJobs.org. Interested child care and preschool employers should contact the Department of Workforce Development to explore the application process and develop a training plan by visiting DWD online at https://www.in.gov/dwd/business-services/etg/ for more information and to apply.

SOURCE: News release from Office of Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb