Commonwealth Corporation Awards ABCD $500,000 Toward Early Education Teacher Training

Enrollment Is Now Open

Commonwealth Corporation, through the Workforce Competitive Trust Fund, awarded ABCD $500,000 to support 90 participants in the agency’s First Steps early educator training program. The grant runs from July 1, 2022 – July 1, 2024. Applicants must meet income requirements.

Participants receive college credits through the Urban College of Boston or other partner community colleges. Upon completion, alumni will have the opportunity to interview with ABCD Head Start or a childcare provider in ABCD’s extended network. First Steps offers job placement assistance and career counseling at all stages of the program: pre-employment, during employment and post-employment. For more information, please click here.

The grant award process involved a proposal from ABCD outlining a comprehensive approach to meeting employer needs for early education staff, while promoting high-quality jobs and opportunities for professional advancement in the field. The model proposed has strategic significance not only for the early education industry, but for every other industry sector in the Commonwealth, since all are deeply affected by widespread and acute shortages of childcare.

The Challenge

The field of early education has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the current public health crisis, the field faced severe labor shortfalls. Now, childcare providers report “a staffing crisis,” with an estimated 2,200 + vacancies statewide. As a result, classrooms and centers have closed. The ripple effects are restricting hiring across the Commonwealth and exerting a significant drag on economic recovery.


The overall goals of this project are twofold: 

  • Address the crisis of vacant positions in early education by placing well-prepared, highly motivated workers.
  • Build a durable collaborative network of employers, training providers, and institutions of higher education, capable of supporting ongoing enhancements to recruitment, retention, and job quality across the industry.

Coalition Partners

ABCD is the lead agency for this project, drawing upon decades of experience in both the delivery of high-quality early education services through Head Start, and an equally long and successful history in training early education staff. A range of employer partners reflect the diversity of early education as an industry. Local two-year colleges provide access to credited coursework. The Metro North Career Center will provide access to job readiness and job coaching services, as well as outreach into a geographic footprint which supplements that of ABCD.

Program Approach 

The proposed model is based on ABCD’s well-tested First Steps program, which over more than a decade has demonstrated its effectiveness in moving unemployed individuals into early education positions with a future. The training model incorporates direct instruction in key competencies, a three-credit college course, stipends for training time, paid work experience and intensive career coaching. To this core program, First Steps and Beyond adds a framework of sector-wide coordination, enhanced work supports for training participants (including childcare), and systematic promotion of enhanced career ladders.