not currently have—a workforce that is adequately prepared to take on the challenges of using today’s evidence-based practices. A particular challenge is the expectations we are putting on teachers in all early childhood programs without the adequate preparation, support, and compensation they need. She expressed her concern that “in our efforts to align everything, we are placing expectations on a completely under-resourced child care system. That is a problem,” particularly given the challenging working conditions of much of the workforce.
She highlighted several federal initiatives to address the needs of a broad range of the ECCE workforce, including Head Start’s National Center for Teaching and Learning, programs to support home-based providers, and the expansion of mentoring programs for teachers. She also noted her optimism in seeing the energy, creativity, and intentionality of young teachers, including those from Teach for America and so many other new teachers, who are dedicating their work to young children. Lombardi’s recent experiences engaging directly with teachers focused her attention on the challenges ahead, the distance still to go to achieve desired outcomes for the workforce, and the promise of new strategies.
The final session of the workshop was dedicated to exploring the context of the ECCE workforce, including its challenges and promising efforts to address them. Considering how to build ECCE as a “profession” was an important theme explored in this session. A perspective from health care offered a useful example of how a profession (e.g., nursing) can have a shared identity among individuals who work in a diverse range of settings, improve standards and requirements for entry, and foster means for continuing improvement. Presenters also explored perspectives on the career pathways, training and education, and working conditions that affect this workforce. Discussion highlighted possible steps for the future to support the workforce and better serve the children and families whose lives they touch.
Other fields have struggled with many of the same issues that face the ECCE workforce and the policy makers and others who hope to strengthen it. Catherine Dower, associate director of research at the Center for the Health Professions at the University of California, San Francisco, drew some comparisons with health care and suggested a template for evaluating emerging professions.
Dower reported that although we spend more money on health care than any other nation, and more than 11 million people work in health care in the United States, we rank below virtually all other industrialized countries on adverse health-related measures, such as deaths from