Transforming Colorado’s Early Childhood Workforce

Award Year:
Investment Term: 2016 - 2017
Investment Type:
Contingent Grant
Investment Amount:
Phase 1: $67,191; Phase 2: up to $303,622
Outcome Area:

Transforming Colorado’s Early Childhood Workforce

Investee Background

A nonprofit organization that advances success for young children across the state by accelerating innovation, use of best practices and systemic change in the early childhood sector, Early Milestones Colorado is serving as the intermediary for Transforming Colorado’s Early Childhood Workforce, a multi-phase project in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Human Services to address early childhood workforce challenges, including recruitment, retention and compensation. The initial phase of the project allows Colorado to participate in the National Academy of Medicine's Innovation to Incubation cohort with other states, while the second phase includes surveys and focus groups to study early childhood workforce recruitment, retention and compensation. The study will examine the current early childhood workforce and the workforce pipeline, and it will include a sector analysis and examination of public policies to inform Colorado’s next early childhood professional development plan. In addition, the research and planning activities will inform the development of workforce solutions to pilot in Colorado. This cutting-edge work, which seizes on the opportunity to collaborate with other states and research experts to identify early childhood workforce challenges and design innovative solutions, will help ensure that Colorado’s workforce has the resources and supports needed to ensure children’s school readiness.

Why We Invested

Because a critical component of Colorado’s early childhood system is the strength of its workforce, our support of the Transforming Colorado’s Early Childhood Workforce project is a key step in professionalizing the sector. Research shows that gaps in school readiness begin to appear as early as nine months old, so it is necessary to have teachers and caregivers who are well-trained and able to provide the level of instruction that ensures all children enter kindergarten “ready to learn.” Although Colorado has made strides in improving teacher preparation, national, state and local leaders have identified significant barriers related to teacher recruitment, retention and compensation. If teacher preparation requirements are increased without addressing issues with compensation, there will continue to be a pipeline of teachers who leave early childhood settings for the K-12 system. As a public-private partnership, this project has the ability to initiate significant system-wide change for early childhood in Colorado, and it represents a critical opportunity to support strong state leaders, engage in national workforce initiative efforts, and develop new ways to improve Colorado’s early childhood workforce. We are proud to partner with the Buell Foundation in supporting this work. 

Expected Impact

This first phase of work, which was mostly developmental, focused on building the infrastructure needed to carry out subsequent phases of the project, including engaging stakeholders in developing the workforce plan outline, establishing the groundwork for a compensation, retention and recruitment study, and building knowledge about potential workforce innovations by participating in the state cohort. The second phase of the project has the potential to drive systems change, policy change and new investment approaches to the early childhood field in Colorado. We expect the workforce study to raise critical issues affecting the quality, professionalism and capitalization of the early childhood sector, lead to greater understanding of the barriers and disincentives, and generate new ideas to implement. By having strong research, a solid plan and tested models for compensation, recruitment and retention, Colorado can capitalize on new opportunities at the state and federal level, which could result in millions of dollars of funding to early childhood in our state.