Barton Community College may have the answer to a federal mandate requiring Head Start employees to be better educated, said Cheryl Couch, coordinator of the college’s Early Childhood Education program. Her department has spent the past year developing two certificate programs for child-care workers.
Couch presented the idea to the BCC trustees at last week’s study session. The college could meet an industry need by offering a Preschool Education & Care certificate and an Infant and Toddler Education & Care certificate, she said. Each would require 22 college credits, compared to the 64 hours needed for an associate’s degree.
"We know there is a need in the industry," Couch said. Federal mandates require all Head Start employees who work with children to at least be working toward a certificate or degree by August of 2011. Other early childhood caregivers are likely to follow Head Start’s lead, she said.
"The industry has told us there is a great need now," Couch said. "It’s just booming."
The trustees will be asked to approve the program in January. After that, trustee Mike Johnson said, the proposal will go to the Technical Education Authority, and final approval would need to come from the Kansas Board of Regents.
At this time, no Kansas community college offers a certificate in early childhood education, Couch said. The only way to receive a certificate is through a home study course, followed by an exam that costs $340.
A certificate program that starts with core courses meets changing educational requirements from agencies that provide early services to infants, toddlers, preschools and their families, Couch said. "The courses in these certificates are approved by the Early Childhood Associate Apprenticeship Program (ECAAP) and recommended by Barton’s Early Childhood Advisory Board and its Child Development Associate sub-committee."
The program would be offered on the Barton County campus and at Hays, where Barton offers night classes for an early childhood program. It can also be offered online, since all of the college’s early childhood education programs will be available through BartOnline starting in January.
The courses are already offered at Barton for its associate’s degree programs, so offering the certificate option wouldn’t require additional staff or equipment, said Julie Kramp, Barton’s business and industry coordinator. "These classes are already occurring and they’re already being taught. ... This would be a very cost-effective course offering."
Certification in the field won’t necessarily lead to high-paying jobs. Typically, the jobs are filled by women who earn $8 an hour, Couch told the trustees. However, that can be a good job for a non-traditional student, and the ECAAP may pay for a working student’s training through the KansasWorks program. Students will also be encouraged to go on for a two- or four-year degree, she said.