More than 100 Attend Early Childhood Expo at SIC
With a teacher shortage in the early childhood education profession, Dr. Diane King, Coordinator of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Education Programs at Southeastern Illinois College, hosted an event at the college that brought in more than 100 early childhood education professionals and students on Saturday, March 3.
The fourth annual expo included more than 20 exhibitors spotlighting career and education opportunities in Illinois. Some of the exhibitors included Southern Illinois University Carbondale Early Childhood Program; Wabash Area Development Inc. Head Start and SIUC Head Start; Illinois Network of Child Care Resource & Referral – Gateways to Professional Development Program; Child and Family Connections – Wabash Ohio Valley Special Education District; and Project Connect – Egyptian Public & Mental Health Department.
A number of local and regional early care and education programs were represented including SIC’s Mary Jo Oldham Center for Child Study (MJOCCS); Learn, Grow and Discover (Norris City); Puka School Inc. (Carbondale); and Calvary Baptist Child Care Center (Springfield).
The goal of the expo, according to King is to obtain information about educational requirements for Gateways Credentials, ExceleRate Illinois, and career opportunities available locally, regionally and in the state.
“The early childhood professional pathways have a number of credentials and degree options beginning at the associate degree level and continuing on to bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” said King. “They offer many career options ranging from teaching or being a teacher’s aide or substitute in the public schools to working in Head Start; DCFS; Child & Family Connections; or any number of agencies that require early childhood backgrounds.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Matt Buckman, a Licensed Clinical Child Psychologist at Egyptian Public & Mental Health Department, presented, “The Effects of Early Trauma and Adversity: Strategies that Promote Healing and Social Emotional Development.” The attendees engaged in activities to raise awareness and consider strategies they can apply in their work with children and families.
King believes it is important to bring together current early childhood educators and related professionals, along with college and high school students during this time of shortages in the early childhood education field.
“It is a continual process to advocate, recruit and market early childhood education as a critical societal demand and need along with the clear connection to the highly qualified professional workforce to sustain the staff in such a wide array of early childhood programs,” she said.
The current shortage in early childhood educators in the state and region became apparent about five years ago, according to King.
“When the changes for admissions into teacher education programs took effect along with increased educational qualifications for teachers in the child care programs, we started to see fewer people going into early childhood education as well as education in general,” she said.
However, preschool teaching jobs are expected to increase 7 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, child care programs are a necessity when it comes to economic development, since they are the core support system for the workforce – most of whom are working families.
Early childhood education programs prepare individuals to teach and care for young children as lead preschool teachers, child care or preschool assistant teachers, family child care providers, paraprofessionals in public schools or child care center administrators.
The majority of King’s early childhood students find employment following graduation.
Professionals with degrees in elementary education or another discipline can take the SIC early childhood education (ECE) courses to earn the hours required by DCFS, Gateways, and Head Start. The program at SIC will also prepare students to continue their education at a four-year institution.
This year King has had students from as far away as Chicago, Quincy, Springfield, Belleville, Effingham, and many places in between.
Southeastern is the only Illinois community college offering the ECE Associate in Applied Science degree in an online format. The SIC Early Childhood program is in the top 10 Illinois Community Colleges for Gateways Credentials Completers. Additionally, SIC was recently ranked the #1 online community college in the state of Illinois by Affordable Colleges Online and #19 in the nation by the Center of Online Education, as well as receiving recognition from the Aspen Institute as being in the top 10 percent of community colleges in the nation.
Southeastern’s desire to provide a great online education stems from the desire to provide a quality education overall.
“Southeastern’s goal is to meet the needs of our students – and many students need an online education to fit into their busy life” said Karla Lewis, coordinator of the college’s online program. “We provide consistent, high quality courses for our students as well as the support they need and deserve. Our online students have the opportunity to continue their education anytime, anywhere.”
For more information on SIC’s early childhood education programs, including the online associate degree or Gateway Credentials, visit www.sic.edu/ece or contact Dr. Diane King at (618) 252-5400 ext. 2221. King and her students can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sic.early.childhood.education and www.facebook.com/sic.education. For more information about all of SIC’s online courses, visit www.sic.edu/online.