“Becoming an early childhood professional is something I always wanted. Working with children is more than a job to me. Once I leave the center every child is still in my heart. There are so many children not in safe environments, and I want to provide a safe environment for any children that may not have that at home.”
– Daionna, YouthBuild Philly Class of 2014.
Daionna, quoted above, was a member of YouthBuild Philly’s inaugural Child Development Associate (CDA) vocational training program in the 2013-2014 year. Now in its second year, the CDA track is one of four vocational training options for YouthBuild students, along with Building Trades, Healthcare and Business Administration.
Students in the CDA program divide their time between classroom learning and internships at child care facilities around the city. Classroom time covers the research and theory of childhood development and early learning as well as professional skills relating to safety, parent communication, and reporting. Additionally, students participate in service learning projects with organizations like WePAC and PlayWorks. Over the course of the year, students develop a portfolio of work that includes lesson and activity plans, healthy meal plans, and a professional philosophy statement.
YouthBuild Philly launched the CDA track to build a strong pipeline to employment. Demand is high in the childcare field, and the CDA certification is a critical asset for students seeking employment in the field. Several students from the first Class of 2014 are now employed at childcare facilities or as full-time nannies.
CDA Coordinator Justine Philyaw sees additional, personal advantages in the training program for students. “I’m interested in how this program is affecting our students as parents,” she said. Half of the students in this year’s program have one or more children, and what they learn in the classroom is useful to them as parents and educators. For example, students often bring activities home to try out with their children.
Along with stable employment, Philyaw added, the field of early childhood education offers flexible schedules, which students can leverage to advance their careers or balance their work with other responsibilities. Amber – another 2014 alum – has plans to start taking college classes online, which will fit in well with her downtime (read: naptime) as a nanny and allows her to further her education and career without compromising her availability to clients. More and more childcare facilities are now open at night or even overnight, too, and childcare professionals can work night shifts to have more flexibility during the day.
In addition to the career advantages listed above, CDA students choose the training program because of their interest in working with children. Many CDA students have witnessed or personally experienced dangerous and unsupportive childcare conditions, and feel called to create safe and educational spaces where young learners can thrive. In Diaonna’s words, “it’s more than a job.”
This month, we’ll be posting more student and alumni stories with a focus on the CDA track, as well as updates from the CDA classroom. To follow along, please bookmark or subscribe to our blog – or sign up for our new monthly “Spotlight” newsletter, which will feature a new YouthBuild Philly topic (starting in January with childcare) each month.