Dogwood Health Trust recently awarded more than $8.3 million in grants to support organizations to help the Early Childhood Education (ECE) workforce. The grants were made to 10 nonprofit organizations and educational institutions across the region, including nearly $1 million to McDowell Technical Community College.
All projects seek to increase access to existing ECE credentials, attract new or career-changing adults into the ECE profession and improve working conditions for the existing ECE workers.
Grants were made in response to a request for proposals (RFP) from western North Carolina announced by Dogwood in July.
“The quality of proposals to address early childhood educator workforce challenges speaks to the deep understanding and innovative solutions that exist among our grantee partners,” said Dr. Ereka Williams, vice president—Education at Dogwood Health Trust. “I look forward to seeing the long-term impacts and transformational change in the ECE workforce as a result of these initiatives.”
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“Investing in the workforce behind the workforce — our Early Childhood Educators — is a win for everyone,” said Dr. Susan Mims, CEO for Dogwood Health Trust. “Our children, working families, employers and educators all benefit, resulting in a stronger, healthier and more economically viable region for western North Carolina.”
Grants awarded include:
Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Foundation received $510,932 to support Project Blazing Trails: Early Childhood Collegiate Support. The focus of the project is to expand the current program by employing two early childhood education faculty to serve a cohort of at least 60 participants during the duration of the project.
Blue Ridge Community College Education Foundation received $1,000,000 over a five-year period to support the College’s ECE recruiting and success initiative. Funds will support the addition of two ECE recruiting and success coaches, additional adjunct faculty, professional development and Spanish translation of courses and teaching materials.
Children & Family Resource Center of Henderson County received $1,000,000 over a five-year period to support workforce development in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties. Working in partnership with Buncombe County Partnership for Children, funds will be used to recruit and train individuals to become early childhood educator substitutes, which are in incredibly high demand.
McDowell Technical Community College (MTCC) received $985,000 to support its project, A Model Community College Childcare Center: Developing a Playbook to Create More Equitable Workforce Solutions for Early Childcare. By partnering with Centro Unido Latino Americano (CULA) to employ a Latinx workforce coordinator, MTCC plans to triple the number of students of color in their ECE program.
Mountain Projects received $649,286 to support Head Start Workforce, which is responding to current ECE needs as well as the changing demographics of the families it services. Increasing wages and offering education incentives will help retain current ECE staff and recruit new professionals.
Southwestern Child Development received $1,000,000 to support Pathways to Early Learning, which builds upon and advocates for an increase in teacher education leadership through scholarships and apprentice programs, supports bilingual and staff of color to attain credentials, including higher education and ensures racial equity training is required as part of coursework and ongoing professional development.
The Enola Group received $617,697 to support the project, The Three Rs: Recruitment, Retention and Reinforcement of Early Childhood Education. Working in partnership with Western Piedmont Community College, the project will recruit students into the ECE profession by providing them paid on-the-job experiences and retain current ECE teachers by providing them with professional learning opportunities to improve work conditions.
Verner received $748,497 to support the Center for Resilient Educators & Families, which will offer interventions to support ECE teacher mental health, in the form of group therapy services, to ECE center-based teachers and family childcare providers.
WNC Source, formerly known as Western Carolina Community Action, received $987,914 over five years to support Building Blocks for the ECE Workforce. The goal of this project is to increase access to jobs in the ECE profession for individuals who are primarily Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC), first-generation students, and/or live in rural communities by providing training, support and career advancement opportunities.
Western Carolina University received $868,885 to support LEAF in ECE: Leadership, Equity and Access Fellowship in Early Childhood Education. The project will increase the number of classrooms in the region, which are led by LEAF fellows by offering an accelerated licensure program.
Dogwood recently announced the availability of a comprehensive ECE landscape study in October. WNC Early Care and Education Landscape, conducted by North Carolina-based child care services leader and advocate, Child Care Services Association focused on both the early childhood education ecosystem, as well as a review of the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship program and its impact on the ECE workforce in western North Carolina.