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Illinois’ Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) Workforce

Who is the early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce?

The ECEC workforce includes a diverse field of professionals working to support young children's development.

A qualified, valued, supported, and well-compensated workforce forms the foundation of high-quality early childhood education and care.

Statewide Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity

To support the critical early childhood education and care infrastructure, and in response to shortages of qualified early childhood educators (with high vacancy rates in child care centers, community-based early childhood programs, and school-based classrooms across the State), on July 28, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker announced a $200 million investment to strengthen Illinois' early childhood workforce. The funding aims to advance racial equity while expanding the early childhood educator pipeline through advanced degree scholarships, trainings, and mentorships.

Additionally, Governor Pritzker signed HB2878 (P.A. 102-0174), establishing the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity to strengthen access to high-quality child care and direct this funding to where it can be most effective. The Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity is an agreement between all public universities and community colleges, as well as any private institutions that choose to participate, to cooperate, through regional hubs, in order to improve access to associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees and certificates, Gateways credentials, and other licensure endorsements. The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development (GOECD) are working together to convene a Consortium Advisory Committee and provide guidance on the operation of the Consortium.

Resources to Support Workforce Development in Illinois

Education Reimbursements

Licensure and Credentials

  • Gateways Credentials – Gateways Credentials are symbols of professional achievement that show your knowledge, skills, and experience in caring for and educating children. Credentials are awarded and recognized by the Illinois Department of Human Services Bureau of Child Care and Development. Some Circles of Quality in ExceleRate Illinois require Gateways Credentials, and employers can use Credentials to help in their hiring decisions.
    • Credential Renewal fees are currently being waived for most early childhood Credentials.
    • New Family Specialist Credential - The Gateways Family Specialist Credential (FSC) is for professionals who provide direct services to families. They work in a variety of settings and their titles vary. Some of the positions who would apply for the FSC might be Family Case Workers, Parent Educators, or Family Advocates. Those earning the FSC will have special knowledge of managing family relationships and documented "family-related" work experience.

"The Future Depends in Teachers"


  • Gateways Scholarship Program – This program will pay a portion of tuition for eligible professionals working in early childhood education and care or school-aged programs who want to earn college credit, Credentials, or degrees.
  • Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship (CEWLS) - This scholarship program aims to support Chicagoans and the current Chicago Early Learning workforce as they pursue coursework to earn a Credential, degree, endorsement, or licensure to work with young children (birth through Pre-k) and families in Chicago Early Learning programs.

Wage Supplements

  • Great START Wage Supplements - Great START (Strategy to Attract and Retain Teachers) is a wage supplement program that acknowledges child care practitioners who have completed college coursework and stay at their current place of employment. Great START recipients are sent a check every six months (based on continued eligibility) to supplement their income.

Workforce Initiatives

  • Click here to view numerous workforce initiatives funded by the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5), including the ExceleRate Pilot Project which is testing the salary and staffing pattern enhancements needed to meet pilot ExceleRate standards, and the development of a searchable statewide Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant (I/ECMHC) database, among others.
  • Click here for information about the implementation of the Pyramid Model in Illinois, as well as the work of the Illinois Pyramid Model State Leadership Team.

Workforce Reports