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Early childhood ed program will expand to Henderson County

Buncombe Partnership for Children has received a $400,000 grant that will enable it to expand an early childhood education program in Henderson County.

The grant from the NCWorks Local Innovation Fund supports the WNC Early Childhood Teacher Workforce Development Program. First piloted in Buncombe County, the program addresses the shortage of early childhood educators in Western North Carolina by recruiting candidates in underserved communities and providing them with education, coaching and substitute teaching placement while they continue their training.
The two-year grant will expand the program started in Buncombe County to Henderson, Transylvania and Madison counties. Through this grant, the BPFC and its partners will be able to recruit and train up to 60 new teachers. The program also supports teacher retention with a pool of substitute teachers, which allows current teachers to participate in professional development.
“Our region currently does not have enough qualified early childhood teachers to meet current or future classroom staffing needs,” said Amy Barry, executive director of the Buncombe Partnership for Children. “In Buncombe County we only have enough classroom spots for 8 percent of the babies born each year. Because of a lack of teachers and funding, we have 621 fewer childcare slots than we did 10 years ago. Our neighbors in Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties have experienced these trends as well. The goal with our program is to address this great need so more children have access to quality early education and working parents have access to affordable, reliable childcare.”

Led by the Buncombe Partnership for Children, the program’s partners include Mountain Area Workforce Development Board, Children & Family Resource Center of Henderson County, Smart Start Partnership for Children of Henderson County, Smart Start of Transylvania County, Madison County Partnership for Children and Families and Community Action Opportunities, Inc.
“The loss of the early childhood education slots and qualified teachers hinders our region’s ability to attract and retain high-paying jobs and workers,” said Nathan Ramsey, director of the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board. “Employers throughout Western North Carolina have told us that the lack of childcare slots is a major barrier to recruiting and retaining employees. When we support the development of a robust pipeline of early childhood educators, we support the workforce behind the workforce.”
Through the grant, the Partnership will hire two workforce development coordinators: One will be employed by the Children & Family Resource Center of Henderson County to coordinate the program in Transylvania and Henderson Counties, and another will work in Buncombe and Madison Counties.
“Unfortunately, our region has a high early childhood teacher turnover rate, which creates inconsistency that isn’t ideal for children and families,” said Elisha Freeman, executive director of the Children & Family Resource Center in Hendersonville. “Investments like this grant help us support and grow the early childhood education workforce pipeline, which supports our local economy by allowing parents to work and creating a strong foundation for our community’s future leaders – our children.”
The NCWorks Local Innovation Fund supports projects that do one or more of the following: address an underserved community or population currently disconnected from the education and workforce system; bring together diverse community organizations; help workers increase their education and skills; and develop talent pipelines for in-demand, high-wage occupations.
The Local Innovation Fund is an initiative of the NCWorks Commission. The 33-member Commission includes representatives from the business community, heads of state workforce agencies, educators and community leaders. The Commission, which is designated as the state’s Workforce Development Board under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, recommends policies and strategies to enable the state’s workforce and businesses to compete in the global economy. All members are appointed by the Governor, other than certain members who serve ex-officio.