New Ridgewater-SWIF venture to expand childcare teachers for high-demand industry
February 24, 2023
Early childhood education workers had more incentive than ever to choose Ridgewater College to advance their careers this semester. A new partnership with the Southwest Initiative Foundation (SWIF) is providing up to $30,000 to assist with students’ tuition and program costs for a March-start cohort of 11 students.
The target audience for this cohort of part-time students included:
- current childcare workers who have no higher education credential or who are under-credentialed and wish to advance from childcare worker to mid-level teacher and
- historically marginalized populations in or outside of the early childhood industry within the target counties of Kandiyohi, Meeker, McLeod, and the Lower Sioux Community
“What’s unique about this opportunity is that the cohort of students will take just one or two classes at a time, allowing them to continue working at their current jobs while attending college,” said Cindy Salfer, Ridgewater Early Childhood Education instructor. “Our goal was to recruit, educate and retain workers in an industry that has incredibly high demand right now.”
“The availability of child care is one of the factors that contributes to the economic development of the region,” said Jeff Miller, Ridgewater dean of instruction. “Ridgewater College is committed to developing unique opportunities and programming that address critical workforce needs. We consistently hear that childcare workers are in demand.”
To keep college costs manageable, cohort students are applying for financial aid and scholarships to determine support through those resources, but then also applying and accessing generous SWIF funding to keep out-of-pocket student expenses very minimal.
“Southwest Initiative Foundation is excited to partner with Ridgewater College in this innovative approach to building our early childhood workforce,” said SWIF President Scott Marquardt. “Child care is a critical economic development issue facing our entire region and all of Minnesota. Ridgewater’s innovative approach with this program will help advance more professionals into an industry with incredible demand and urgent need.”
In addition to affordability, another key benefit of this innovative venture is that the credentials within the Early Childhood Education program are stackable. In other words, once students complete the program certificate which advances them to a mid-level teacher position, some will hopefully choose to take the next step, and then pursue the Early Childhood Education Transfer Pathway Associate in Science degree, training required to become a lead teacher.
To help ensure student success, technical advisors and admissions counselors are available to assist with college application, financial aid, and registration — all the steps to get students started on the right foot. In addition, students will have access to language and writing tutors and hands-on internship experiences for practical application.
For more information about the Early Childhood Education program and options, go to www.ridgewater.edu/earlychildhood.