Accessing Career Pathways to Education and Training for Early Care and Education (ECE) Professionals

This report provides recommendations for expanding and systematizing career pathways implementation within the Early Care and Education sector.

Chrys Limardo
Sara Hill
Jessie Stadd
Tim Zimmer
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Manhattan Strategy Group
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

This report was developed through the Early Learning Career Pathways Initiative, supported by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. It examines the current state of career pathways in the early learning industry intended to meet the skill, employment, and advancement needs of low income, low-skilled adults who are in or entering this field.

A number of factors impact the ability of ECE professionals to attain education and training. These challenges are particularly debilitating for disadvantaged individuals, such as low-skilled adults and English Language Learners (ELLs), that currently comprise a notable portion of the ECE workforce. Major obstacles facing the ECE workforce include: disparate educational attainment opportunities, availability of comprehensive social services and financial supports, and the need for additional language support for ECE professionals who are ELLs.

Career pathways can remove barriers experienced by ECE professionals, support the current and evolving landscape of the ECE sector, and provide opportunities for disadvantaged workers already in or entering the ECE field. Career pathways provide a clear sequence of education and training aligned with professional standards and competencies. An effective pathway with multiple on- and off-ramps and comprehensive social, educational, and financial supports broadens access to opportunities. Strategies that should be considered in supporting the ECE workforce include: financial supports and paid release time; comprehensive support services, such as career services and counseling; accredited online training and education options; stackable and portable credentials; and on-the-job training through apprenticeships. 

This report recommends expanding and systematizing career pathways implementation within the Early Care and Education (ECE) sector. Other considerations for ECE stakeholders and policymakers include: expanding federal and state-level financial supports, creating policies to make ECE credentials stackable and portable, increasing wages and education incentives for ECE professionals, and expanding highquality professional development opportunities. A comprehensive and holistic approach must be considered when designing and implementing career pathways that takes into account compensation, training, and retention of a high-quality ECE workforce.

This report builds upon an earlier report, Early Learning Career Pathways Initiative: Credentialing in the Early Care and Education Field.

Benefits and Uses

This report is useful for state staff interested in building state-level or supporting the development of local career pathways that lead to the training and employment of ECE professionals. This report can be shared with career pathways partners including prospective employers, community colleges, training programs, and adult education providers to raise awareness around the labor market need for ECE professionals. Partners can also learn from the provided federal, state, and program level practices exemplifying promising strategies in advancing the ECE workforce. 

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