The Apprenticeship for Child Development Specialist (ACDS)

The Apprenticeship for Child Development Specialist (ACDS) is a statewide training program that builds a competent, sustained workforce to provide quality care and education to West Virginia children. The program is a collaborative effort of the US Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship, the US Department of Education, the WV Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Children and Families, the Division of Early Care and Education, River Valley Child Development Services, the WV Early Childhood Training Connections and Resources, WVU Extension Services, and multiple vocational schools.

In April 1989, the director of the West Virginia Department of Labor approached River Valley Child Development Services to develop and provide an apprenticeship training opportunity for individuals working in the childcare sector. The collaborative partners united with local and state programs to secure funds and create a curriculum. The first four-semester course was successfully implemented as a pilot in the fall of 1989 with seventeen apprentices. As the first early childhood apprenticeship model in the United States, the program has received national recognition.
Since its inception, the program has continued to evolve. ACDS trains staff currently employed in childcare centers, Head Starts, preschools, school-age care programs, and public schools. Based on the US Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship model, the ACDS program requires a total of 300 hours of course work and 4,000 hours of on the job experience. It also requires the commitment of the apprentice’s employer to provide supervision and support of the apprentice’s laboratory work and an increase in wages upon successful completion of the training. Graduates
receive national certification through the US Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship and, upon completion of the program, often matriculate to colleges and
universities to obtain an associate’s degree in early childhood education. The collaborative partners and early childhood development experts recognized a need to revise the ACDS training curricula in April of 2015. Based on this need, they redeveloped the curriculum to reflect current research and to meet the state requirements of those employed in the field of early education. This curriculum, which incorporates best practices, offers early childcare centers a comprehensive, competency-based program that trains childcare staff to provide quality care for

In 2016, The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation supported the ACDS Curriculum Revision Project because, in addition to collaborating with multiple partners across sectors, the program aligned with the Foundation’s interest in increasing the number of qualified educators working in out-of-school time settings. ACDS also Apprenticeship for Child Development Specialist promotes the pursuit of post-secondary certification, which is also one of TGKVF’s education priorities. The Foundation’s funding supported the ACDS curricula’s redesign and allowed for the purchase of resource boxes to supplement the newly revised lessons. These materials have helped instructors make positive connections with their apprentices through hands-on activities that support weekly modules. The resources have greatly strengthened the learning experience for approximately 70 apprentices within TGKVF’s region by providing them current, research-based information to
implement goals and objectives in their early childhood classroom. In addition to assisting apprentices, the grant has also built the capacity of ACDS instructors as it enables them to receive updates and training on the newly designed curricula.

The ACDS program has had much success in producing knowledgeable early childhood professionals because of its “hands-on” approach. According to one childcare center director, “staff who have completed the ACDS program have gained knowledge and understanding of child development and implemented it in the classroom. Being in a classroom setting with other teachers from different centers is a great resource for sharing knowledge with one another. Teachers who have completed the ACDS program have gone on to continue their education and obtain a degree in
early childhood education. They feel a sense of pride and passion in their careers and they no longer look at what they do as just a job.” Apprentices put into practice the knowledge gained from their weekly instruction into their classrooms with children. This type of training offers apprentices professional growth and enhances the quality of care for children in the state of West Virginia.

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