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New apprenticeships could help fill Michigan's childcare shortfall

Chelsea Beck/NPR
(Illustration: Chelsea Beck/NPR)

New apprenticeship programs could make it easier to get child care certification in Northern Michigan.

Northwest Michigan Works partnered with Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency created two different apprenticeships — one for a childcare development specialist and another for a childcare educator.

Both programs are registered under the U.S. Department of Labor.

Organizers say it's an effort to remove barriers for both parents and employers in desperate need of help.

“We are trying to encourage individuals who are interested in this career pathway to look at registering in an apprenticeship as an opportunity for them to achieve so much,” said Evelyn Szpliet, Regional Director of Apprenticeship Services at Northwest Michigan Works! “Plus (they could) fill that very in-demand occupation.”

According to a 2022 Muckrock investigation, Michigan lost 735 childcare providers following the pandemic. Reporters found there are just 314,000 spots available for nearly 560,000 children under the age of 5.

The new apprenticeships offer a minimum of 12 months of on-the-job training along with a minimum of 144 hours of related educational instruction.

Apprentices are hired by a daycare or other childcare center while taking classwork at either Northwestern Michigan College or North Central Michigan College. The classes span from toddler and infant care to helping children with special needs.

“The curriculum is paid for by the employer. But the apprentice is also being paid as they go through the program,” Szpliet said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone who is interested in this career pathway.”

Shannon Phelps, Director of NMCAA Child and Family Development said the first cohort has already begun and includes three apprentices. More information can be found on the Northwest Michigan Works website.

“The need for high quality early care and learning educators is extreme and we are committed to providing our team members with a variety of avenues to meet their professional goals,” Shannon Phelps, NMCAA Child and Family Development Director said in a press release.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.