Virginia Early Childhood Foundation launches new program to curb staffing issues

Published 5:56 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

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In an effort to combat the recent child care staffing crisis, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation launched an Early Educator Fast Track Initiative program to help connect 14 early childhood centers in the Hampton Roads area with newly trained assistant teachers. 

Before rolling out to other areas in the rest of Virginia later this year, early childhood education centers in Suffolk, Portsmouth, Franklin, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Courtland and Norfolk are being connected with the program. 

VECF Vice President of Strategy Karin Bowles said the new Fast Track program’s ability to provide new educational opportunities while combating the issue of child care staffing is extremely important.

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“We know that access to quality child care is essential to the wellbeing of Virginia’s children, our families, communities and economy,” Bowles said. “Unfortunately, Virginia families are struggling with an ongoing child care crisis which is due to a staffing shortage in the child care industry.”

The Fast Track Initiative focuses on bringing new people into the early education workforce and getting them trained up quickly in about four weeks and placed in child care programs that have vacancies at a competitive wage, she explained. It supports the child care programs by allowing them to bring in new workers and keep their classrooms open, which supports families and new people coming into this really important career. 

“We consider early childhood educators to be brain builders,” Bowles said. “They’re job is really important, not just to families, but to Virginia’s future. So, we’re helping the child care providers and we’re helping develop a strong new early education workforce.”

Those participating in the program are paid competitive $17 per hour salaries, receive four weeks of both on-site and online training with guaranteed job placement along with bonuses with six months and one year of employment. 

For program eligibility, applicants must have a high school diploma/equivalent, English proficiency, pass required background checks and be eligible for employment in the U.S. Applicants also must be new to early childhood education and not currently or previously employed at an early childhood education center. 

Program participants also need to commit to one year of employment and be able to work at one of the 14 early childhood education centers in the Hampton Roads area. 

In Suffolk, Children’s Center Human Resources Director Paige Powell said the program comes at a very crucial time.

“We are targeting teachers who would be working with our infants and toddlers and, unfortunately, I have 20 positions open,” Powell said. “So we are very excited to partner back with the foundation and the Fast Track program, because I am hopeful that their efforts for recruitment and advertisement and media publicity they’re getting will generate some interest for candidates to consider making a move and becoming a pre-K school teacher.”

Based on where a candidate wants to work, such as Virginia Beach, North Suffolk, or Hampton, she said all locations are listed if they want to work at one of their centers. Individuals working at the Fast Track program would forward those individuals to the Children’s Center.

“We then take the time to bring those individuals on site one day with us, so they can see the school that they have selected,” she said. “They get an opportunity to spend time in the classroom, to make sure that they think it is a good fit for them, as well as we get to make sure we believe it is a good fit for us too.”

Powell said they want everyone to feel that they’re making the right decision.

“We actually have our first candidates coming in for interviews [Thursday] afternoon for the Fast Track program, so we are very excited and hope to see more candidates coming our way.”

Following the interview, Powell said these two candidates mentioned received and accepted their offer of employment. They start work March 6. 

Likewise, Powell said there are three additional candidates with the program interviewing next week.

For more information on the Early Educator Fast Track Initiative program , go to


Editor’s note: Updated third passage at 9:46 a.m., Monday, Feb. 20 to reflect correct spelling.