Carlow Launches First Ever Four-Year Apprenticeship Program for Early Childhood Educators

Drew Wilson -

Carlow University starts first of its kind four-year apprenticeship program for early childhood educators. Program has the approval of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor.

a child writes on a piece of paper with a pencil in a classroom setting

Apprenticeships are commonplace for careers in the building trades, but through a new, first of its kind program at Carlow University, apprenticeships will be applied to early childhood education.

Carlow University has been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor to launch an Early Childhood Education Apprenticeship Program, the first four-year apprenticeship program in the state of Pennsylvania.

“Keeping aligned with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development’s 2016 Inflection Report, apprenticeship programs provide a strong pipeline in developing strategic partnerships between employers and education institutions,” said Rachael Afolabi Royes, EdD, executive director of the Center for Digital Learning and Innovation and the Hub for Workforce Development and Innovation at Carlow.

This program will serve as the model for such programs in the state, and Carlow will work with local community colleges to develop a seamless apprenticeship transition for students employed in early childhood education.

“An early childhood apprenticeship program in Pittsburgh can help improve child care workforce retention, increase program quality, and can help increase diversity in teacher candidates,” said Rae Ann Hirsh, D.ED., associate professor and director of the Early Childhood Education Program at Carlow. “Early childhood programs need to be high quality, affordable, and accessible. An apprenticeship program removes barriers the early childhood workforce has faced and provides a sustainable pathway to degree attainment and higher quality care.”

Curriculum for this program integrates educational requirements from the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Pre-K to 4thgrade teacher preparation standards, the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Pre-Professional Standards, and the Pennsylvania Core Knowledge Competencies to meet the needs of both certification and non-certification pathway students.

This program is important because it will improve access to quality early childhood education, which is a key to future success for children.

“Brain development, relationships, emotional health, symbolic thinking, relationships, and the building blocks for academic constructs are crucial tasks of the early childhood years,” said Hirsh. “Teaching young children is the most important work one can engage in. Teachers are agents of change who are needed to instill values of humanity, compassion, empathy, and love of learning in each child they the privilege to teach.”

The early childhood workforce has been a traditionally underserved population. An apprenticeship program provides opportunity to diversity the childcare and teaching workforce, improve quality, and recognize the value and contribution of each working professional.

For more information about this program, contact Dr. Rae Ann Hirsh at or Pam Zimmerman at

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