New Apprenticeship Plan to Tackle Teacher Shortage in Pennsylvania

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PENNSYLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Department of Education and three industry partners recently unveiled the state’s first-ever apprenticeship program to help bridge the teacher shortage gap. Unlike traditional higher education models, this apprenticeship provides students with an opportunity to gain vital hands-on experience in teaching while simultaneously earning a salary. This makes it more appealing to those who may have thought about entering the educational field but could not afford to forgo a salary for an extended period of time. This innovative approach also benefits employers who no longer need to search endlessly for qualified teachers – they are able to build their workforce themselves through the program. Governor Josh Shapiro is confident that this plan will help ensure Pennsylvania’s children have excellent, well-paid teachers in their classrooms.

The departments of Labor & Industry (L&I) and Education (PDE) aim to confront Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage by expanding the apprenticeship model in the education sector to include training for individuals like paraprofessionals and teachers’ aides who want to become certified elementary and secondary teachers. L&I and PDE are looking for partners to create a new apprenticeship model specifically designed for and targeting this population.

“Building opportunity for our kids starts in our classrooms, but students can’t succeed if we don’t have enough well-qualified, well-paid teachers helping them learn and grow,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “This apprenticeship-driven approach will not only alleviate teacher staffing shortages in our schools, but it will also create a talent pipeline and an education workforce representative of the students it serves.”

While there are currently more than 30 registered apprenticeship programs in the education sector throughout Pennsylvania, most are focused on the early childhood education workforce. L&I is soliciting applications for up to $500,000 in grant funding from organizations capable of building a registered apprenticeship program that school districts across Pennsylvania could use as a template for teacher career pathways.

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“The goal of creating registered apprenticeship programs for certified teachers is rooted in the Shapiro Administration’s commitment to helping Pennsylvanians by directly investing in our workers and their future,” L&I Acting Secretary Nancy Walker said. “For more than a decade, there has been a significant decline in the number of individuals obtaining teacher certification in Pennsylvania. This grant program is a commonsense solution to address this challenge and provide a meaningful pathway to family-sustaining jobs for workers who have already demonstrated commitment to children in their communities.”

“Educators play a pivotal role in our Commonwealth. Supporting our teachers, investing in programs and alternative pathways to a career in education is a top priority,” said Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “This grant program is an opportunity to help strengthen the workforce and provide future generations of educators the chance to pursue their passion and make a difference in their communities.”

Established in 2016, L&I’s Apprenticeship and Training Office (ATO) is responsible for guiding and promoting the expansion and compliance of all registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs across the Commonwealth. The ATO currently supports 868 unduplicated program sponsors and 1,573 occupation-specific registered apprenticeship programs across the Commonwealth, with 16,254 registered apprentices currently active. Governor Shapiro’s budget proposes an investment of $2.5 million for apprenticeships that will support the creation of at least 20 new programs serving about 1,200 apprentices.

Schools throughout Pennsylvania face significant barriers to adequate staffing levels of well-qualified teachers. According to an analysis conducted by the Penn State College of Education’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, the number of teaching positions filled by individuals on an emergency permit has increased significantly compared to the number of newly certified teachers who participated in state teacher preparation programs.

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Other factors exacerbating the teacher shortage include a significant decline in teachers certified in specific subject areas; the presence of teacher preparation program “deserts,” particularly in rural areas; and a substantial shortage of teachers of color. According to the report, teacher staffing challenges are felt most acutely by schools serving high proportions of students living in poverty and students of color.

The deadline to apply for grant funding is June 1, 2023. More information about the Building and Supporting a Certified Teacher Registered Apprenticeship Program grant availability is available on L&I’s website. This opportunity is 100% federally funded using the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Statewide Activity funding.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, visit the website.

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