Dr. Bhukhanwala Awarded $212K PAsmart Grant to Expand Apprenticeship Opportunities

By Caitlin Burns | July 13, 2021

Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Early Childhood Education Program Dr. Foram Bhukhanwala has been awarded a PAsmart Grant to expand the apprenticeships opportunities in the PreK-4 Program for Early Childhood Education Working Professionals from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Bureau of Workforce Development Administration.

The $212,500 grant supports Arcadia’s undergraduate PreK-4 Program for Early Childhood Education Working Professionals, an online bachelor’s degree program designed to support students who are working full time in early childhood care and education centers. 

The undergraduate Working Professionals Program has two track options: undergraduate education student or the apprenticeship track. As a state registered apprenticeship program, the apprentices complete their Bachelor’s degree requirement at Arcadia through the Working Professionals program. Apprentices transfer into the University after earning an Associate in Arts degree from a community college and matriculate to complete their bachelor’s degree. In addition, apprentices complete their on-the-job learning competencies within their place of employment. Each apprentice has a designated on-site coach who further supports their learning on the job. As apprentices achieve milestones in their program, they receive a wage increase at their place of employment.

In our region, Arcadia’s registered apprenticeship program is offered at Community College of Philadelphia and Delaware County Community College.

“The early childhood apprenticeship program design provides a unique opportunity for students to connect teacher practice with theory—that is to combine on-the-job learning with their university classroom learning,” said Dr. Bhukhanwala. “With meaningful partnerships, it creates a career pathway for the early childhood workforce and can help address the racial, economic, and linguistic inequities which continue to divide and stratify the early education workforce.” 

The grant would support the apprenticeship track and allow for 15 apprentices to be admitted into the program next year. Dr. Bhukhanwala hopes to bring in seven apprentices in the Fall 2021 cohort and eight apprentices in the Spring 2022 cohort.

The early childhood workforce is typically a non-traditional student population: often they’re women from marginalized populations, such as persons of color, linguistically diverse, or first generation-college students. For many, their educational journeys are filled with significant barriers in obtaining their degrees, such as trying to work an hourly wage job while incurring a high college debt, or starting and stopping their degrees. Dr. Bhukhanwala noted that it’s not unusual for someone in the early childhood workforce to take over 10 years to complete an associate degree due to these barriers. Through this program, she hopes to minimize those barriers so that professionals are able to meet their educational goals and obtain an undergraduate degree. 

“The program has helped me personally, professionally, and financially,” said Maria Cabrera ’22. “I have been able to create such an incredible environment for the children that I work with at the early childhood center as I continue my education and become more aware of my educational philosophy and truly understand what it means to be an educator.”

This is a renewal PA Smart grant. The first grant was awarded in 2018 for $150,000 to launch the Apprenticeship program. Five apprentices from the pilot cohort graduated in May 2021, each with a bachelor degree in Education.

In addition to the PA Smart grants, Dr. Bhukhanwala also received the William Penn Foundation grant for $143,934, which was used to launch the Early Childhood Education program.