When Salina Tech graduates a nurse, welder or machinist, that typically means one person is on the path to a better career.
But with the college’s newest program, each new graduate may mean new careers for several people, with the impact still being felt decades from now.
Working in cooperation with local employers, school districts and child-care advocates, Salina Tech is launching an Early Childhood Education program, with a “soft launch” planned for January.
The program was approved Thursday by the Kansas Board of Regents. It has already been approved by the Kansas Technical Education Authority, and by the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission.
This program will be important to the community in a number of ways, said Eric Brown, President and CEO of the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Lack of child care has become one of the top five obstacles to growing the workforce,” Brown said, explaining that without adequate and affordable child care, many parents who could be working opt to stay home with their children.
Brown was part of the college’s Early Childhood Education Advisory Committee, and said that while the immediate effects of a community having high-quality child care are obvious, other benefits take years to be seen.
“There are 50 years of studies about the importance of early childhood education,” Brown said. “It’s important for kids under the age of five to have access — the zero to five time frame is very important.”
“If you don’t have a quality start, it affects their education throughout their life,” Brown added.
“Research shows an ROI of every dollar spent on early childhood education brings $11 back into a community,” said Lori Blake, Executive Director of Child Advocacy and Parenting Services of Salina.
Blake also served on the college’s committee that helped get the program started, and is a member of the Southeast of Saline School Board.
“We have had a long-standing initiative in Saline County since 2000, working on increasing the quality of child care, called Partners In Early Childhood Education — PIECE, and we’ve been trying to address the issue of access to child care.”
“With the new jobs coming at Kubota and Tony’s we already don’t have enough people in the workforce,” Blake added. “By getting Salina Tech involved, we’re training skilled people for our early childhood centers.”
The Early Childhood Education program will allow students to earn a variety of certifications in specialized areas, and an Associate of Applied Science degree.
Certifications include one in Infant and Toddler Education, for 17 credit-hours, a certification in Pre-School Education, for 19 credit-hours, a 33 credit-hour certification in Early Childhood Education, and a 62 credit-hour Associate of Applied Science degree, which includes several general education classes.
Many of the credits earned in the program will transfer to other colleges, should a student decide later to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in education.
To learn more about the program, contact the college’s admissions office at 785-309-3100 or [email protected].