A teacher works with a student at a Community Action early childhood education program. Photo courtesy of Community Action.

A Lincoln non-profit will receive $1 million from the American Rescue Plan to train 70 childcare workers over the next three years.

Community Action was one of six Lincoln organizations chosen by the city to receive $12 million in American Rescue Plan grants to be used for workforce development. 

Community Action applied for the grant to help enhance the quality of care that is given in its Head Start and Early Head Start programs, said Heather Loughman, CEO of Community Action. 

“We really wanted to pursue an opportunity that would allow us greater capacity to support employees in gaining their credentials that are needed to provide quality care and for employees to have the ability to advance careers and early childhood education, which we know is very needed in Lincoln,” Loughman said. 

With the grant, Community Action plans to provide child development associate credential training to 70 workers over three years. Only lead teachers at the Head Start and Early Head Start programs are required to take the training, but Loughman said that Community Action wants associate teachers to take the training, too.

“Associate teachers are not required to, but we want to see them have that CDA. You know, not only because it improves the quality of service that we’re providing, but it allows them to gain a better wage within the program,” Loughman said.

The child development credential is earned through the Council for Professional Recognition. To earn the credential, people must complete 120 hours of training in different areas across early childhood education, 480 hours working with children in the age group in which the credential is being sought, pass an observation of their teaching, compile a portfolio demonstrating their knowledge and pass a proctored test, Loughman said. 

“We are really eager to see the success of this project, and we’ll certainly think about how we sustain it long-term.”

Community Action currently serves 493 children in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, Loughman said. In addition to its early childhood education services, Community Action’s programs and services include homelessness prevention, financial and family wellbeing, hunger relief and healthy food access, Loughman said. 

This round of the American Rescue Plan funding for Lincoln was focused on workforce development because the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force recommended that the city needed to provide opportunities for up-skilling and re-skilling workers displaced by the pandemic, said Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird. 

“Ensuring workers have access to rewarding and financially secure careers that enable them to provide for themselves and their families is a top priority,” she said. “Ensuring businesses and organizations can secure the workforce they need to be successful and grow our local economy is an equally important priority.”

To date, American Rescue Plan funds have provided nearly $7 million in assistance to over 250 small businesses in Lincoln. Additional funding will be used to enhance public health, rural water service and broadband development.

The other recipients that received the workforce grant money, according to the City of Lincoln press release

  • Bryan Health, which received over $1 million to help train 125 participants a year as certified nursing assistants or phlebotomists. 
  • The Center for People In Need, which received almost $600,000 to train 40 students a year in the Google Career Certificate Program.
  • Lincoln Manufacturing, which received about $2 million to provide two types of manufacturing certification classes to 425 people over three years.
  • Rabble Mill, which received about $2 million for its workforce readiness program and to fund building improvements.
  • Southeast Community College, which received about $4.5 million for a new STEM center to provide training in information technology, manufacturing and welding and to develop an innovative approach to rapid retraining of the community’s workforce.

Diane Gonzolas, the city communications manager, said a committee of government and business leaders selected the grant applicants. 

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