Those interested in teaching in the early education sector in Boston will soon be able to access free education and training programs at area institutions.
The financial supports are part of a new program aimed at easing the child care labor shortage. The program will be funded by a $7 million allocation from the Biden Administration's American Rescue Plan Act and administered to three educational institutions: Bunker Hill Community College, University of Massachusetts Boston and Urban College, as well as Neighborhood Villages, an early education advocacy group.
The four recipients of Boston's "Growing the Workforce Fund" were unveiled at a news conference Monday led by city officials and Massachusetts' congressional delegation. The funding will support scholarships and financial aid for about 800 students. It will also help them access wraparound supports such as industry mentors and internship stipends, and guarantees them a job after graduation. Participants will be required to work as an early educator in Boston for a minimum two to three years.
"This will both ensure that graduates have an opportunity to put their skills to use in the field, and help stabilize the early childhood sector in our city right now," said Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.
The childcare industry in Massachusetts lost about 10% of its workforce since the start of the pandemic. In Boston, that's translating into long wait lists and shorter hours of care. According to city officials, about 50 early education classrooms are sitting empty because child care centers can't find enough people to operate at capacity.
Wu was quick to point out that the estimate doesn't include centers that have had to cut hours because they're short staffed.
"This grant is a win for everyone," said Kate Barrand, the president and CEO of Horizons for Homeless Children, a Roxbury nonprofit where the news conference was held. The organization recently had to reduce hours due to insufficient staffing.
"This grant really can accelerate the entry of new people into the early education market," Barrand said.
The $7 million in federal funding is on top of the $5.5 million in American Rescue Plan money the city recently received. That money was intended to help child care centers increase staff pay. The $5.5 million allocation will also help more centers provide "off hours" care for families with unique work schedules, such as overnight workers, or people who work early or late shifts.
City Councilor Kenzie Bok said the one-time funding is an important investment.
"That will pay dividends not just with those 800 folks [who enroll in the free program] but the idea that other folks around them will look at them and say, 'that looks like a stable opportunity,'" said Bok.
Several members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation joined Wu Monday, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Rep. Katherine Clark.