Nov 14, 2023 - Business

YMCA apprenticeship aims to tackle child care staffing shortage

Illustration of an exclamation mark on a child play mat.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Like other organizations in Massachusetts, the YMCA of Greater Boston struggled to recruit more early childhood educators.

  • So the nonprofit built an apprenticeship program to train aspiring teachers and pay them while they’re learning.

Why it matters: The nationwide child care shortage has hit Massachusetts hard, as the high cost of living and the industry’s low wages make it hard to recruit early childhood educators, especially at nonprofits that serve low- to middle-income parents like the Y.

Driving the news: The Y has launched a $500,000 apprenticeship program that aims to train 45 teachers a year, CEO David Shapiro tells Axios.

  • The apprentices not only get free schooling, but also earn $19 an hour — the starting wage for assistant teachers — during the nine-month program.
  • They also get benefits, discounted daycare and a free Y membership during the program.

The latest: Shapiro announced on Tuesday the apprenticeship and raises for its current teaching staff across its nine locations, about a $1 million investment for the nonprofit.

  • The raises bring the staff’s salaries from an average of $46,500 to $55,700, Shapiro says.

What they’re saying: "You're not going to find a community that says, we don't need more early education slots. Everyone needs it,” Shapiro tells Axios.

How it works: The apprentices complete a 40-hour child development course at Fisher College and work as assistant teachers until they can get certified.

  • The apprentices are paired with a senior Y worker for mentorship during the program.
  • Once certified, they are eligible to start making $26 an hour as teachers, Shapiro says.

State of play: The Y already has 14 apprentices, with cohorts that started in June and September.

By the numbers: The Y started training before it had amassed the full $500,00 and built out the program as money came in.

  • The state committed up to $225,000 of that money per year for three years.
  • It also includes funding from the city of Boston, Citizens Bank and Eastern Bank.

Reality check: A program of 45 won't make a major dent in the state's child care worker shortage, but Shapiro says it made sense for the Y to tackle its own staffing challenges, considering it runs other workforce development programs.


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