Scattered around a meeting room in groups of three or four, 13 women bent over laptop computers and smartphones, squinting at Colorado’s hundreds of child-care regulations.
They were child-care and preschool employees from all over Denver on a scavenger hunt of sorts, searching for answers to worksheet questions such as how quickly child-care workers must be trained on child-abuse reporting and which eight kinds of toys and equipment classrooms are required to have.
The exercise on a recent Tuesday night was part of a 120-hour course—the equivalent of two college classes—that leads to a nationally-recognized child-care credential.
Leaders at Mile High Early Learning, which operates seven centers around Denver, decided last summer to launch the training program to help solve one of the organization’s—and the field’s—most intractable problems: A shortage of qualified teachers and assistant teachers.
“We were having difficulty finding staff so we thought, ‘How could we grow our own?’” said Pamela Harris, the organization’s president and CEO.
In a field known nationally for low pay and high turnover, Mile High’s staffing struggles are hardly unique. What’s more unusual is the organization’s decision to address the problem with a formal in-house training. It’s a move that illustrates the anxiety providers face in finding high-quality staff and the gaps that exist in the state’s early-childhood worker pipeline.