Looking for a New Job? This Virginia Program Trains New Childcare Workers for $17 an Hour


By Amie Knowles

June 16, 2023

The Early Educator Fast Track Initiative—through competitive compensation and comprehensive benefits—aims to address hiring and retaining challenges of child care workers in certain parts of Virginia.

If you’ve ever been around children or worked with them, you might share this opinion: Kids can be a handful. 

You might think that child care workers are making bank, given the amount of work it takes to properly care for little ones. In many circumstances, that isn’t the case.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) noted that higher compensation attracts more workers to an industry—yet, childcare sites across the country continue to face challenges when hiring and retaining staff. It’s an issue that the pandemic greatly affected. 

A May 2023 report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on child day care services revealed that there were about 1.5 million child care workers in the country in February 2020. By April of the same year, that number dipped to just under 677,000. Preliminary numbers from this past May show that there are almost 1 million workers back in the industry, but that’s only two-thirds of the pre-pandemic workforce.

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To help combat the issue, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation recently launched the Early Educator Fast Track Initiative. The program seeks to connect childcare centers in Chesterfield, Glen Allen, Henrico, Petersburg, and Richmond with new early childhood educators. 

The initiative pays over $3 more an hour than the May 2022 national average, starting employees off at $17. In Virginia, that’s still significantly more than the commonwealth’s average pay for childcare workers last spring, which totaled $14.50 an hour.

In addition to the hourly pay rate, there are other perks in the program. The soon-to-be-educators receive four weeks of online and on-site training—and that’s also paid at $17 an hour. Those who continue on the career path for six months will receive a bonus, as well as employees who cross the one-year mark. The bonuses will total at least $1,500, according to the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation website

There are five basic eligibility requirements for potential employees: 

  • A high school diploma or equivalent 
  • A background check, which they must pass
  • English proficiency
  • A commitment to one year of employment
  • Eligibility for employment in the US

For those interested, training begins this month. Individuals currently employed by a childcare center or family day home are not eligible for the Early Educator Fast Track Initiative. 

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  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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