Workforce Development

Pathways graphic
Click the image to be directed to the Early Childhood Educator Workforce Development Pathways Resource Guide.

The Rhode Island Department of Human Services Office of Child Care is committed to ensuring that all children have a healthy, safe, and high-quality experience in licensed RI Child Care Programs. Ensuring a highly qualified early care and education workforce is key to ensuring families are able to thrive at home, at work, and in the community.

To augment the quality of education delivered to our youngest learners, the Office of Child Care (DHS OCC) funds a number of quality initiatives. Individuals employed in a DHS licensed, BrightStars rated program may be eligible for a full or 90% scholarship to advance their career by beginning or continuing higher education and training opportunities.

In partnership with Rhode Island public institutions of higher education, the DHS OCC  funds and supports in the development, delivery and oversight of a number of workforce development pathways. DHS Workforce Development pathways are high-quality, equitable, accessible, and affordable for the working professional. Our pathways promote early educator competencies and the RI small bussinesses that employ them to offer the highest quality child care to support young children and their families whenever possible.

In service to the Rhode Island Early Childhood Care and Education Strategic Plan, DHS Workforce Development pathways help ensure RI child care programs can attract, develop and retain a strong workforce of qualified and well-supported educators to meet the current demand for educators. It also works to build a pipeline for future expansion. This is one of the strategies the DHS OCC is employing to ensure high-quality, inclusive, and culturally responsive early care and education for RI children and families.

To ensure prospective students, employers, and the general public have a resource detailing the DHS Workforce Development Pathways, we have created this Resource Guide here. Additional information can be found below.


A graphic telling people to check out the Back to Work Rhode Island website for info on child care openings across the state.

RI Early Childhood Education Training Program

DHS partners with CCRI to operate the Rhode Island Early Childhood Education and Training Program (RIECETP), one of several early care and education quality initiatives developed to increase the quality of child care providers that service families and children enrolled in the state’s Child Care Assistant Program.  The RIECETP is a comprehensive and unique education and training program that strengthens the knowledge and skills of both seasoned and novice early childhood educators by providing supportive mentoring, coaching, cohort-based learning, and formal academic coursework. RIECETP offers three, free of cost, stackable pathways to achieve credentialing and/or college credits that are integral to the DHS Sponsored Professional Development & Technical Assistance (PD/TA) Early Childhood Education Workforce Development Pathways Quality Continuum: 

  • CDA: Designed for supporting educators with little or no formal higher educational experience in early childhood education to obtain the Child Development Associate (CDA) Certificate, a nationally recognized early childhood credential. Students who hold a valid CDA may be eligible to earn up to six credits for prior learning transferrable into CCRI’s 24 Credit of Completion in Early Childhood Education and into CCRI’s Associate’s Degree of Early Childhood Education and Child Development Associate in Arts.

  • 12 Credit: Designed for first-time or returning students looking to advance their skills and take the first step toward enrolling at CCRI and working towards a college degree. In this cohort pathway educators receive individual guidance and onsite mentoring/coaching, and as an official CCRI, college student will have access to CCRI student services.

  • 24 Credit: Designed for students who have completed the RIECETP 12-credit program. Students who complete this program earn the CCRI Certificate of Completion in Early Childhood Education and are invited to participate in the annual CCRI graduation ceremony. Students who complete this model may transfer their 24 credits into the 60 credit Associate’s and will have completed nearly half of the Early Child Education and Child Development Associate in Arts.


Two child care teachers sing along and perform with their students.

T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood RI

DHS partners with the Rhode Island Association for the Educaton of Young Children (RIAEYC) to operate the innovative Teacher Educaton and Compensation Helps scholarship program (T.E.A.C.H.) Early Childhood RI. Incumbent child care workers employed in DHS-licensed CCAP programs serving children age birth-five with the support of their employer may apply to receive a scholarship to off-set the cost of earning early childhood college credits, certificates, and degrees at the Community College of RI (CCRI), Rhode Island College (RIC) and the University of Rhode Island (URI). Through T.E.A.C.H., educators advance their career by pursuing certificates and higher-education degrees in early childhood education (ECE). This scholarship opportunity is designed to embed tuition reimbursement (typically offer 90% of the cost of tuition), educator paid time off, student stipends to offset costs, and textbooks, as guaranteed wage enhancements, as agreed upon, between the educator and their employer as described in each model to meet the needs of Rhode Island’s child care workers.

  • 3-6 Credit Model (CCRI, RIC or URI): Designed to support a variety of needs of teachers and program leadership such as those who are interested in increasing qualifications to meet BrightStars Child Care Center or Family Child Care Quality Framework Teacher Qualifications or complete their education.
  • Infant Toddler Registered Apprenticeship (CCRI or RIC): The DHS Registered Apprenticeship (RA) program offers a career pathway where early childhood educators can obtain paid work experience (on-the-job learning), related instruction (higher education), and a stackable, portable, nationally recognized credential. Objectives are designed to increase the availability of highly trained infant-toddler educators, support compensation initiatives, reduce staff turnover, and increase quality within infant-toddler classrooms. DHS, in conjunction with the RI Department for Labor and Training created and approved two RA options to appeal to the infant-toddler teacher assistant and the infant-toddler lead teacher.  Each level embeds enrollment in a DHS-funded ECE workforce pathway.
    • Level I: CCRI RIECETP Infant Toddler CDA Training Program
    • Level 2: RIC 16 Credit Infant Toddler Certificate
  • 16 Credit Birth-Three (Infant/Toddler) Certificate of Undergraduate Studies (RIC): Develop to offer best practices for adult learners through a cohort model for both English and Spanish speaking professionals. Spanish-speaking professionals receive additional support through a RI-Best model where course content is delivered in their home language along with additional weekly workshops focused on improving English language literacy skills for which they concurrently earn an additional credit. The RIC B3 CUS complements the CCRI CDA course by building on the knowledge and skills developed in the Infant/Toddler CDA through a 16-credit program that utilizes best practices for adult learners. The Certificate of Undergraduate Studies (CUS) in Birth to Three at Rhode Island College (RIC) creates an opportunity for educators to develop expertise in the care and education of infants and toddlers.
  • 24 Credit Certificate of Early Childhood Education (CCRI): This is designed for the working early childhood professional who seeks to improve or upgrade their knowledge and skills in early childhood education and child development. The times and modalities for the course will vary. All courses completed may transfer to the CCRI associate degree in early childhood education and child development. Courses may support educator and program leadership to increase qualifications to meet BrightStars Child Care Center or Family Child Care Quality Framework Teacher Qualifications. Please note this is not a Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) endorsed certificate.
  • Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education and Child Development (CCRI): Child development and early childhood education majors are trained to work with families, parents, young children, and those who impact the development and well-being of children. Child development associates may be employed in various educational and social settings including child care facilities, Head Start programs, preschools, and public schools. This model is ideal for educators interested in pursuing an associate's degree. This model is designed for educators or leadership with some college experience. Individuals without college experience are encouraged to consider RIECETP as a first step.
  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education (RIC & URI): This model helps students to gain the competencies and skills to advance their career by earning a bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Rhode Island College (RIC) or the University of Rhode Island (URI). Concentration options include the RIDE Pre-K to 2 certification and non-certification pathways.
  • Postbaccalaureate RIDE Early Childhood Preschool-2nd grade Certification (URI): This model is ideal for educators and program leadership interested in pursuing an early childhood education certification (RIDE Pre-K-grade 2) through RIDE at URI. The URI post bachelor's degree program is a fully online, accelerated Teacher Certification Program (TCP) in early childhood education designed for students who have completed a bachelor’s degree. The program is a fully accredited certification that prepares students to teach preschool to grade 2.
  • Postbaccalaureate RIDE Early Childhood Preschool-2nd grade and Early Childhood Special Education Certificate of Graduate Studies (RIC): This model is ideal for educators and program leadership interested in pursuing early childhood education certification (Pre-K-grade 2) and early childhood special education certification through RIDE. Prospective candidates must hold a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, early childhood special education or a related discipline.  This program is offered in an online, accelerated, peer learning format.
  • Master's degree Early Childhood Education (RIC): Designed for educators and program leadership, this model is ideal for those interested in pursuing graduate level studies in early childhood education at RIC. This degree program not only provides students with a deeper understanding of learning and development but prepares them for leadership positions in the field of early childhood education.

In addition to overseeing T.E.A.C.H. scholarships, DHS contracts with T.E.A.C.H. to operationalize the Career and Technical Education Pathway Program. This project is designed to create a bridge from high school into early childhood education and career opportunities, by developing partnerships with TEACH counselors, DHS licensed –CCAP early childcare providers and local high school career and technical education programs with early childhood education and training options.