Upskilling Virginia’s Early Learning Workforce

The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation recognizes the profound influence of early childhood educators in building the brains of Virginia’s next generation.

We are committed to elevating awareness of the early education profession and supporting their skill building through access to competency-building coursework and credentials.

Focus on this important work began in 2015 and progress continues today through various state and national initiatives.


A remarkable set of key stakeholders convened for an initial discussion in July 2015 to recognize the importance of the early educator workforce; understand national trends, concerns, and opportunities; learn about the barriers and challenges with the existing PD pathway in Virginia; and begin to map out a more cohesive professional development pathway for this important workforce. This initial upskilling discussion was co-hosted by VECF and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

2015 Working Paper


Thanks to a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a team of Virginia stakeholders, led by VECF, participated in the National Academy of Medicine’s Innovation to Incubation B-8 Initiative, a 5-state effort to create state-specific plans for early education workforce development.

The work of this team of experts resulted in recommendations and a final report to guide Virginia’s upskilling efforts. The Virginia team also authored a discussion paper for June 2017 issue of National Academy of Medicine’s Perspectives about how Virginia is improving its education pathways to support the upskilling of its early educator workforce. 

Virginia NAM Team’s Abbreviated Report

Virginia NAM Team’s Position Statement and Recommendations

Virginia NAM Team’s Full Final Report

Virginia’s Definition of School Readiness

Virginia’s Standards and Competencies Crosswalk

Perspectives Discussion Paper: Connecting Stakeholders to Bridge the Divide: Upskilling Virginia’s Early Childhood Educators

Established 2016

The School Readiness Committee was created by the 2016 General Assembly via HB 46. In recognition of the fact that one of the most important factors in learning outcomes for young children is the capabilities of the adults who support their growth and learning, the first goal of the Committee is to address the development and alignment of an effective professional development and credentialing system for the early childhood education workforce in the Commonwealth.

VECF is pleased to provide for the facilitation of the committee and to serve as a member of the steering committee.

School Readiness Committee Webpage

2017 School Readiness Committee Report

House Bill 46

Established 2016

VECF administers the Project Pathfinders scholarship program to support students at select Virginia community colleges and 4-year universities. VECF recognizes that one of the most important factors in school success is the capabilities of the adults who promote young children’s growth and learning; we also recognize that significant financial barriers may prevent this workforce from being able to participate in coursework leading to credentials and degrees. VECF is pleased to be a part of supporting one of Virginia’s most valuable workforces—early education professionals.

Project Pathfinders Overview

Project Pathfinders FAQ

Click here for more Project Pathfinders Scholarship materials and information.

Number of Pathfinders Funded Courses per Participating College since Pathfinders Inception

(as of 5/19)


Registered Apprenticeship is an earn-as-you-learn strategy for increasing both the competencies and the compensation of the early educator workforce. VECF is optimistic about the potential for this strategy to meet the needs of the early educator workforce. Early childhood programs that register with the Department of Labor & Industry then pair apprentice teachers with mentors at their site for on-the-job learning. Apprentices participate in coursework at Virginia Community Colleges and receive financial support for tuition, fees, and books through Project Pathfinders. VECF continues to seek creative and innovative approaches to both upskill and increase the compensation for the early educator workforce.

Registered Apprenticeship: A Win-Win Strategy for Early Childhood Employers and Practitioners

Registered Apprenticeship: Frequently Asked Questions

Earning While Learning with Early Educator Apprenticeship Programs – New America, February 2019


In working to bridge the divide that early educators faced when navigating the higher education system in Virginia, VECF facilitated the collaborative work of a team of representatives from Virginia community colleges, universities, and state agencies. The group met regularly over the course of two years to leverage 1) key changes that had been made in Virginia’s teacher licensure and education program regulations and 2) new state priorities and strategies to ease the teacher shortage. The team dared to envision a pathway of affordable, “stackable” competency-building credentials for early educators – including a newly-designed associate degree program that articulates with no loss of credits to newly-designed baccalaureate degree programs with a concentration in early childhood development – that could be completed within a “4-year” term. This new pathway leads to preK-3rd grade teacher licensure with a focus on the specific competencies and skills needed to support children’s development from birth through age 8, and was announced by Governor Northam in November 2018.

Press Release

Emerging Pathways for Early Educators

Certificate and Degree Navigation

Higher Education Program Contacts

Financial Assistance for Early Educators


Current participating 4-year universities:

  • Bluefield College* (began Fall 2019)
  • George Mason University (began Fall 2019)
  • James Madison University (began Spring 2019)
  • Old Dominion University (began Fall 2019)
  • Virginia Commonwealth University (began Fall 2019)
  • Longwood University (beginning Fall 2020)

* non-licensur