This program offers a fast, free path to becoming a child care teacher in Washtenaw County


YPSILANTI, MI – A new program is seeking to remove the cost and time barriers associated with earning a child care certificate or degree.

As child care centers in Washtenaw County and across the state seek out employees, including assistant and lead teachers, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College are partnering up for the program.

Made possible through funding from Washtenaw County and other third party sponsors including University of Michigan Credit Union and Lake Trust Credit Union, the Child Development Certificate Pipeline Program between EMU and WCC allows individuals to earn a Child Development Certificate recognized by state of Michigan Child Care Licensing.

The pilot program is comprised of two semesters of online courses at WCC, while completing two practicum semesters that help students earn 240 hours toward the required 480 hours necessary to obtain a child development associate credential.

The program is an “intergenerational” opportunity that doesn’t disrupt students’ ability to continue working at their respective child care center and is free to Washtenaw County residents, said Caroline Sanders, associate director of community relations and engagement for EMU and a Washtenaw County commissioner.

Upon completion of the program at WCC, students have the option to either use their certificate toward employment as an assistant or lead teacher at a child development center or use the credits earned at WCC to assist them with transferring to a baccalaureate degree in Early Childhood Education at EMU.

“For those people that are already working in a childcare setting, it doesn’t disrupt their employment the way bachelor’s-seeking students would literally have to change their work schedule for in order to do their student teaching during the day,” Sanders said of past difficulties students have had obtaining degrees in the child care field. “That’s one of the best parts, is that it’s not destabilizing daycare centers by pulling their employees away.”

Launched as a pilot program in 2020, the CDC Pipeline Program has struggled to get off the ground during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanders said, with nine students currently enrolled in the program.

Sanders said she envisioned around 20 participants in the program per year and is hoping the program’s flexibility in helping individuals obtain a certificate that is required for anyone who wants to open their own child care center will make it an enticing option.

The certificate is also credit bearing, which means credits earned are transferrable into an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree at EMU, Sanders said, making it an ideal option for those who may not have graduated from high school or had the option of attending a four-year university to continue their education.

The program also requires that participants sign a promissory note indicating they will stay with their employer for at least one year after they finish their certificate in an effort to prevent destabilizing the workforce, Sanders said.

“This is an ideal opportunity to find a job at a child care center, be able to have your own child there in that center and be funded to continue your education,” Sanders said.

During students’ practicum, they are given coaching from a WCC instructor via video, who provides feedback on how they are performing child care duties at their place of employment, WCC Professor of Early Childhood Education Beth Marshall said, with students completing two 120-hour practicums.

Students complete one virtual four-credit class per semester that are focused on the eight CDA competency areas, including health, safety, learning environment, professionalism, working with families, cognitive development, communication and child guidance, Marshall said.

Marshall said the program has attracted a variety of students from different background from younger students just entering the field out of high school to those who have raised a family and want to gain marketable skills and expertise.

We also have some students who have been working in the field for a while, but don’t have any higher education or any certifications, so they’re realizing that they would like to learn more about what are good practices and what are high quality practices,” Marshall said.

Overall, the program takes about 10 months to complete and is free to Washtenaw County residents. Some students also are funded in the program through a partnership with Michigan Works! Southeast, EMU Collaborative Child Development Center Liaison Deirdre Gingras said.

The initial $30,000 in funding provided by the county for the pilot, along with funding from sponsoring partners helps pay for the courses, which typically cost about $1,500, with another $500 toward the national certification test, Sanders said.

The pilot program opportunity comes at a time when funding avenues have opened up for individuals seeking certificates or an associate’s degree at a community college. Additionally, startup grants have been made available via funding from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s $100 million Caring for Mi Future initiative, with hopes of establishing or expanding 1,000 new child care facilities by the end of 2024 by easing the burden of startup costs, which can run as high as $4,800.

“This certificate is typically required for anyone that wants to open their own child care center in their home,” Sanders said. “We’re trying to make this a very holistic experience for people coming in the door and then exiting out with that national certification.”

More information on the Child Development Certificate Pipeline Program can be found here or by contacting Gingris via email.


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