Oakton College Partners with Evanston Organizations to Address Early Childhood Workers Shortage

The ESL/ECE students participated in a job fair at Evanston’s Robert Crown Community Center, Oct. 5.

Des Plaines (Oct. 9, 2023) - Oakton College, the City of Evanston, and Evanston community organizations are partnering to address a workforce shortage of early childhood educators in Evanston by creating a unique program that combines English as a Second Language (ESL) and Early Childhood Education (ECE) training.

Launched at the beginning of summer, the pilot ESL/ECE program creates a solution to workforce shortage and engages Spanish-speaking residents in early childhood education pathways. There are 100,000 fewer child-care workers than before the coronavirus pandemic, according to a 2022 Bureau of Labor Statistics report. The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley reported in September that childcare sector employment continued to increase, adding 3,300 jobs in August.

“Through this unique collaboration with our Evanston community partners, we are advancing racial equity, enhancing workforce readiness, and engaging our community, which are the pillars of our Vision 2030 strategic plan,” said Jesse Ivory, Ed.D., assistant vice president of Workforce Innovation and College Partnerships.

Oakton has partnered with Evanston Latinos to conduct student outreach and started providing English as a Second Language training to the pilot cohort this summer. This fall, the students will participate in paid early childhood education work experience while continuing teacher training at Oakton. In addition to the pay, the students will receive a stipend from the City of Evanston.

Upon earning the Basic Early Childhood Education certificate, students can pursue other stackable certificates at Oakton to prepare them for a range of teaching positions from infancy through early school age. The ESL/ECE students participated in a job fair at Evanston’s Robert Crown Community Center, Oct. 5. Thirteen local employers, including YMCA, Evanston Montessori Children’s House, Toddler Town, and Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Center, participated, offering full- and part-time teacher assistant positions, prioritizing bi-lingual educators.

“We are very excited about this new pilot and the feedback we have been receiving from community partners, employers, and students,” said Ivory. “Hopefully, this is the beginning of the new workforce development opportunity for the community.”

Teachers and educators play an essential role in the lives of their students. Early childhood education professionals are particularly vital. Their efforts can instill an interest and love of learning in young children and help determine their students' educational path later in life. To learn more about Early Childhood Education programs, please visit Oakton’s website.