Illinois Early Childhood Apprenticeship Pilot Program


  • Apprenticeships


In FY 2023, Governor J.B. Pritzker allocated $12 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to pilot an apprenticeship program for early childhood educators. The program, administered by the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services Division of Early Childhood, partners with four early learning programs and six institutions of higher education. It combines classroom learning at two- and four-year colleges, on-the-job training in early learning programs, and mentorship with seasoned providers. The program aims to keep talented early childhood educators in the workforce while they acquire a credential, license, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree.

The program supports sites that  sponsor apprentices with wage supplement contracts that allocate funding to increase staff compensation. The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) serves as the apprenticeship intermediary, coordinating the pilot program across employers and institutions of higher education. The pilot program will run until 2025 and culminate with recommendations to the state for expansion and sustainability.


Illinois Department of Human Services. (n.d.). Illinois Early Childhood Apprenticeship Pilot.

Illinois Office of Management and Budget. (2023). Illinois Early Childhood Educator Apprenticeship Pilot.

Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:

The early education workforce is the foundation upon which all daily work and any expansion and quality improvement efforts rest. Research suggests that states and cities should invest in the workforce across all early education setting types, focusing on enhancing educators’ professional learning, compensation, and workplace conditions.

Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:

  • Early educators play a critical role in supporting the well-being of young children and families across setting types.
  • Yet their pay, benefits, and other professional supports are often inadequate in light of the job demands and their cost of living.
Learn More about ELS@H Findings

Learn more about Illinois

Context matters. Visit the Illinois profile page to learn more about its demographics, political landscape, early education programs, early education workforce, and funding sources and streams.

Visit the Illinois Profile Here
  • The state population is 12,582,032
  • The percentage of children under 6 with all available parents in the workforce is 70%
  • The rural percentage is 13.1%