Photo: Huong Vu for Strategies for Children

Earlier this month, federal officials announced that they are creating the new and promising National Early Care and Education Workforce Center (the ECE Workforce Center). It’s a national effort to rebuild the workforce that includes local leaders here in Boston.

Launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with $30 million in funding, the new center will address an old problem: even before the pandemic, the early childhood workforce was plagued with low pay and high turnover rates. This situation has grown worse during the pandemic.

 “We know it is hard for families to find quality early childhood programs. One of the reasons is that programs are having trouble recruiting and retaining early educators,” January Contreras says. Contreras is the assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families, part of HHS. “We cannot continue to expect early educators to remain in these critical roles only to earn poverty wages.”

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra adds, “HHS is honored to launch this first-of-its-kind research and technical assistance center to support the essential early childhood workforce who partner with families every day to ensure young children have what they need to thrive.”

The new ECE Workforce Center will help by addressing recruitment and retention. The center’s work will include the input of early educators and be carried out over the next five years by six partner organizations. They are:

• Child Trends

• Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, at the University of California Berkeley

• BUILD Initiative


• University of Massachusetts-Boston, and 

• University of Delaware

“We thank the Biden Administration for trusting UMass Boston to deliver on such a critically important project for the American people,” Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco said in a press release.

“Early childhood workforce development is at the core of what UMass Boston is about – removing racial and gender barriers that historically prevent academic success and upward mobility and fueling an economy increasingly powered by immigrants and other historically disadvantaged communities.”

Anne Douglass adds, “We are at a pivotal moment for the field of early care and education, and the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation is thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking effort. The National ECE Workforce Center will play a key role in transforming the systems the ECE workforce needs to thrive and lead.”

Douglass is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation and a professor of early education at UMass Boston.

As the center and its partners do their work, look for change in a number of areas. As Child Trends explains:

“The ECE Workforce Center is designed to examine and address the need for fundamental changes to career advancement systems, compensation, and ECE workplace policies. The Center will work to advance change across the full range of ECE settings (e.g., family and center-based child care, Head Start), funding streams (e.g., Child Care and Development Fund, state-funded preschool, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), and systems (e.g., states, communities, Tribes, and territories).” Congratulations to all the ECE Workforce Center partners.

Here at Strategies for Children, we’re excited to see the center’s progress on rebuilding the workforce to support more young children and their families.